British MP fuels debate on Islamic veil

17th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

A British lawmaker is refusing to meet female Muslim constituents who wear face-covering veils and has proposed a law banning the practice altogether, he said Saturday.

Philip Hollobone, a member of parliament (MP) from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party, wants to see a French-style ban on women covering their faces in public, although his bill stands little chance of becoming law.

However, in his own constituency of Kettering in central England, he is demanding that women who wear veils and want to meet with him at his constituency surgeries remove them.

"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," he told the Independent newspaper.

"I would invite her to communicate with me in a different way, probably in the form of a letter."

He added: "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."

There are around 400 Muslims living in Kettering, according to the local Muslim association, out of a total population in the town of over 50,000.

Hollobone has also tabled a bill in parliament to regulate certain face coverings, although it will not be debated until December and is highly unlikely to become law due to lack of government support.

This week, French lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to ban the wearing of face-covering veils in public in a bill which will now go to the Senate for approval.

A poll out Friday found that two-thirds of Britons would support a similar ban.

In 2006, former foreign secretary Jack Straw sparked fierce debate by saying he asked Muslim women to lift their veils during meetings with him in his constituency.

© 2010 AFP

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