Michael Nazir-Ali: Burkas should not be worn where it compromises safety

July 18th, 2010 Posted in Islam |

By Michael Nazir-Ali, Telegraph

The Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the late Dr Tantawi, famously, and provocatively made female students remove the face-veil in the classroom. This was a brave thing to do at the premier place of Sunni Muslim learning. Was he right to do it?

It is clear that the fundamental principle of freedom of belief and of the right to manifest one’s own belief must continue to be upheld in a free society, whether for Christians, Muslims or anyone else.

Such a principle does not, however, exist in isolation and has to be balanced against other considerations of the common good and of public order.

As far as the wearing of the Burka is concerned, there are, first of all, questions of safety.

Naturally, it would be quite inappropriate for the Burka to be worn whilst driving or operating certain kinds of machinery. It is dangerous even whilst crossing the street!

There have also been many cases in different parts of the world where terrorists and other criminals have made a getaway by disguising themselves with a burka.

For reasons of security then, where identity has to be established, the wearing of the burka cannot be permitted. This would include airports, immigration control and access to public buildings.

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