Ban veils in public, says Asian bishop Nazir Ali
Muslim women should be banned from wearing the veil, to improve security and cohesion in Britain, the Church of England's only Asian bishop has said.
Bishop Nazir-Ali: 'It is fine if they want to wear it in private' The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, urged the Government to introduce legislation that would force Muslims to remove the veil when they are at work or travelling.
In an outspoken attack on the custom of Muslim women to cover their faces, the Pakistani-born bishop said that the Islamic community needed to make greater efforts to integrate into British society. "It is fine if they want to wear the veil in private, but there are occasions in public life when it is inappropriate for them to wear it," he said. His call for new laws to control the wearing of the veil in public comes only days after it was revealed that
Mustaf Jama, the Somali suspected of murdering WPc Sharon Beshenivsky, is thought to have fled the country by dressing in the niqab, which covers the whole face except the eyes. "Given that we are facing an unprecedented security situation, legislation needs to be introduced that allows officials to remove the veil," the bishop told The Sunday Telegraph.
His comments will reignite the row which began in October after Jack Straw revealed that he asked Muslim women to remove the niqab before meetings in his Blackburn constituency. Bishop Nazir-Ali, whose father converted from Islam to Catholicism, said that the legislation should not just cover airports, but should extend to all areas of travel where an identity needs to be established, such as tube and train stations and ports.
He said that the possible failure of airline staff to challenge Jama was symptomatic of people being "too worried about offending Muslims". Laws should also be given to employers and boards of trustees to demand that the veil is not worn at work, he said. Aishah Azmi, a Muslim teaching assistant, took her school to an employment tribunal after it suspended her for refusing to remove her veil. She was awarded £1,100 for "injury to her feelings", but her claim of religious discrimination was rejected.