Tory MP refuses to meet Muslim women wearing burkas

Mail Online… A Conservative MP today declared he would refuse to meet Muslim women wearing full Islamic dress at his constituency surgery unless they lifted their face veil.

Phillip Hollobone made the comments after launching a Private Member’s Bill to ban women in the UK wearing the burka or niqab in public places.

It comes after France banned women wearing the full-face veil, making it an illegal offence.

But Muslim groups have condemned the Kettering MP and accused him of failing in his duty as a member of Parliament.

Mr Hollobone told the Independent: ‘I would ask her to remove her veil. If she said: “No”, I would take the view that she could see my face, I could not see hers, I am not able to satisfy myself she is who she says she is. I would invite her to communicate with me in a different way, probably in the form of a letter.’

He added that the majority of Muslim women wore dress allowing people to see their face and claimed wearing the burka or niqab was not a religious requirement.

‘It is not a necessity,’ he said.

‘I just take what I regard as a common sense view. If you want to engage in normal, daily, interactive dialogue with your fellow human beings, you can only really do this properly by seeing each other’s face.

‘Seventy-five per cent of the usual communication between two human beings is done with personal experience. God gave us faces to be expressive. It is not just the words we utter but whether we are smiling, sad, angry or frustrated. You don’t get any of that if your face is covered.’

His Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill is due to have its second reading onĀ  December 3 but, as it lacks the official coalition Government;s backing, is likely to run out of parliamentary time.

Shaista Gohir, executive director of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, said: ‘He is just being pedantic and trying to fan the flames of intolerance. He would be failing in his duty as an MP.

‘If someone has made an effort to come and see him and participate in a democratic society, he should take the opportunity to engage. He might learn from the process.’

In 2006, Jack Straw sparked controversy when he revealed that he asked Muslim women to lift their veils at his surgeries in his Blackburn constituency.

The then Leader of the House of Commons said he was concerned about the ‘implications of separateness’ and the development of ‘parallel communities’.

However, Mr Straw told The Independent he did not agree with Mr Hollobone’s stance.

He said: ‘I was seeking to generate a debate within a framework of freedom. I see constituents wearing a burka on a regular basis. I don’t need to ask them (to lift it) and I see them regardless. About half agree and half refuse.’

Mr Hollobone has previously come under fire for criticising the burka during a Commons debate.

He claimed the garment was the ‘religious equivalent of going around with a paper bag over your head with two holes for the eyes’.

He was investigated by police for alleged racial hatred after the Northamptonshire Race Equality Council complained.

Debates in Parliament are protected by Parliamentary privilege and the police decided there was no case to answer.

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