- 6 updates
When if ever should muslim women and girls be asked to remove the veil? A government minister is calling for a ban in schools and public places to be "considered."
Jeremy Browne was speaking following a recent decision by a Birmingham college to lift its ban on the veil after accusations the move was discriminatory. He says it's time for a national debate.
Our political correspondent Alison Mackenzie reports from the Liberal Democrat annual conference in Glasgow.
A Birmingham MP has welcomed the decision by Birmingham Metropolitan College to allow students to wear certain items of cultural importance. He says:
"The modification of the originally announced policy is to be welcomed. I totally understand that if somebody is passing through a security check, whether in a college or at an airport, they should remove any facial coverings so that security staff can do their job....
...I can also understand teachers in a classroom situation wishing to be able to make facial contact with their pupils, but outside of the classroom if an individual wishes to cover their face then I can see nothing wrong in them doing so.”
The Muslim Council of Britain has today expressed its concern over current debates about the wearing of the Niqab, the Muslim veil which covers the entire face.
It follows Birmingham Metropolitan College's decision to reverse a ban on the wearing of this veil, and today's decision by a judge in London to require a defendant to remove her Niqab.
Mrs. Talat Ahmed, Chair of the Muslim Council of Britain’s Social and Family Affairs Committee said:
“The recent events will once again generate controversy when in fact what we really need is sensible, non-hysterical conversation....There are few people who wear the niqab, and they should be allowed to wear this veil if they freely decide to do so.......
"...Nevertheless, this is a personal choice. In Britain, we cherish our right to freedom of religion. I would like to remind those who call for a ban to heed the warning of minister Damian Green who said that introducing such a ban would be ‘un-British’."
Birmingham Metropolitan College has altered its policy on students wearing head coverings after it was criticised for including the Muslim veil in its ban. The college originally said it was banning people from wearing anything which covers their face because of security reasons.
In a statement it said:
"Birmingham Metropolitan College is committed to high quality education for all of our learners. We are concerned that recent media attention is detracting from our core mission of providing high quality learning.
As a consequence, we will modify our policies to allow individuals to wear specific items of personal clothing to reflect their cultural values.
The College will still need to be able to confirm an individual’s identity in order to maintain safeguarding and security.
We have listened to the views of our students and we are confident that this modification to our policies will meet the needs of all of our learners and stakeholders."
One 17-year-old girl said: "I don't think my niqab prevents me from studying or communicating with anyone - I've never had any problems in the city before."
Her comments come after Birmingham Metropolitan College told pupils they must remove anything which covers their face because of security reasons. The ban includes religious veils.
The teenager said she was so upset by the policy she would be looking for another college place in Birmingham.
The college said in a statement:
"We are committed to ensuring that students are provided with a safe and welcoming learning environment whilst studying with us.
To ensure that safeguarding is a priority, we have developed our policy alongside student views to ensure we keep them safe.
This needs individuals to be easily identifiable at all times when they are on college premises and this includes the removal of hoodies, hats, caps and veils so that faces are visible."
Birmingham Metropolitan College has been criticised by students after telling pupils they must remove anything which covers their face because of security reasons. The ban includes religious veils and the college says it is because students must be "easily identifiable".
One 17-year-old girl, who did not want to be named, said she felt she was being discriminated against for being told not to wear her niqab - a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear.
Describing it as "disgusting", she said: "It is a personal choice and I find it absolutely shocking that this has been brought in at a college in Birmingham city centre when the city is so multicultural and so many of the students are Muslim."