I got a call earlier today from a Sunday Telegraph journalist named David Barrett. Barrett was behind the mischievous story last week entitled ‘British schools where girls must wear the Islamic veil’. From reading the headline you would have thought that he was referring to some non-Muslim state schools and no doubt that impression must have been a main reason why that story became the most read on the Telegraph website that day, but Barrett’s (non-) story was actually about three fee-paying independent Islamic schools.
Anyway, today, Barrett told me that he had been in touch with Taj Hargey from Oxford who had allegedly told him that when the French ban on the burqa comes into force in the new year he intends to celebrate it by holding a burqa-burning ceremony together with his congregation. Barrett wanted to know my thoughts about this.
I told him that far from being viewed as a ‘mainstream Muslim’ – the term Barrett had used to describe Hargey in last week’s story – if Barrett had actually bothered to visit Oxford and to talk to Muslims there about their views on Hargey this would have become apparent to him very quickly.
Whether you believe the wearing of the niqab or burqa is a religious requirement or not (and I do not), in a free society it must surely be wrong to compel women to remove them against their wishes especially when it involves no harm to anyone else.
And as for the alleged publicity stunt involving burning the burqa – well, what can you say?