Minister rules out veil ban in Britain

17th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain was "very unlikely" to introduce a ban on Muslim women wearing face-covering veils despite widespread public support for such a move, Immigration Minister Damian Green said.

He told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper that a ban similar to that approved in France, and which a poll on Friday showed was backed by 67 percent of Britons, was a "rather un-British thing to do".

A fellow Conservative lawmaker had earlier said he refused to meet female constituents who wore the face veil and had proposed a law to ban the practice.

However, Green said: "Telling people what they can and can't wear, if they're just walking down the street, is a rather un-British thing to do. We're a tolerant and mutually respectful society."

The immigration minister acknowledged there were occasions when it was important to be able to see someone's face.

"But I think it's very unlikely and it would be undesirable for the British parliament to try and pass a law dictating what people wore," he said.

Green added that unlike France, Britain was not "aggressively secular".

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

Philip Hollobone, a member of parliament (MP) from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party, said Saturday that he demands women remove their face veils when they visit him in his constituency in central England.

"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."

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 a lack of government support.

About 400 Muslims live in Kettering, Hollobone's constituency, according to the local Muslim association, out of a total of 50,000 people in the town.

© 2010 AFP

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