'Women's Right to Wear the Burka'

Article excerpt

MUSLIM women should be free to wear the burka, Theresa May said yesterday as Tory MPs called for the garment to be banned after a terror suspect used it as a disguise to evade the security services.

The Home Secretary said she believed women had the right to choose what to wear, despite Conservative former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth telling MPs the piece of clothing was "alien to our culture".

Her comments came after Prime Minister David Cameron said minister Kenneth Clarke was right to insist women should not be allowed to wear veils while giving evidence in court.

Sir Gerald said the Home Secretary should back the Cabinet minister after it emerged terror suspect Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed escaped surveillance by disguising himself in a burka.

In a question to Mrs May as she gave details to MPs about how Mohamed absconded, Sir Gerald said: "Can you follow the advice of [Mr Clarke] and have the burka banned in this country, because it is alien to our culture and has enabled this man to abscond?" Mrs May replied: "First of all, I believe it is the right of a woman to choose how she dresses.

"We should allow women to be free to make that choice for themselves.

"There will be circumstances when it is right to ask for a veil to be removed, for example at border security and in courts. And individual institutions, like schools, will make their own policies in relation to dress within those schools.

"But I fundamentally believe it is the freedom and right of a woman to choose how to dress."

Chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz said he supported Mrs May's view, telling MPs the burka was not responsible for Mohamed evading the security services.

Tory backbencher Philip Hollobone (Kettering) said the burka should now be banned. He asked the Home Secretary to support his Face Covering (Prohibition) Bill, which would ban any face coverings including balaclavas and burkas. …