Tory MP launches first legal bid to ban burka in Britain
A Tory MP has launched a legal bid to ban Muslim women from wearing burkas in public places.
Philip Hollobone has tabled a private members' bill which would make it illegal for anyone to cover their face in public.
Mr Hollobone has previously likened full face veils to 'going round with a paper bag over your head'.
Burkha ban: Tory MP Philip Hollobone said in the House of Commons in February that wearing a burka was like 'going round with a paper bag over your head'
His Face Coverings (Regulation) Bill is the first of its kind in Britain, and is one of only 20 private members' bills drawn in a ballot for the chance to make it into the statute books.
The bill, which had its first reading yesterday, stands little chance of becoming law due to limited Parliamentary time and a lack of support from the main political parties.
But it is set to reignite the fierce debate about the banning of the Islamic garments at a time when a number of European countries are trying to outlaw them.
Mr Hollobone said it was 'not the British way' for Muslim women to cover their faces in public.
Insisting that his bill has widespread public support, the Kettering MP added: 'People feel that something should be done about burkas, but so many are afraid to speak out for fear of being labelled a racist.
'Part of the British way of life is walking down the street, smiling at people and saying hello, whether you know them or not.
You cannot have this everyday human interaction if you cover your face.
'These people are saying that they don't want to be part of our way of society.'
But Shaista Gohir, of the Muslim Women's Network UK, said: 'I agree that wearing a face veil has a negative affect on community cohesion and the majority of Muslims do not believe it is a religious obligation.
'But a ban would be a completely disproportionate response. There are a million Muslim women in the UK and only a few thousand are estimated to wear a veil.
'Banning the veil will not help those few women to integrate. But it will play into the hands of extremist parties.'
Heather Harvey, Amnesty International UK Stop Violence Against Women campaign manager, said: 'For those women who are being coerced into wearing full face veils, a ban would only make matters worse. Either they're criminalised if they go out in public or, more likely, they are confined to their homes.'