The Guardian is reporting that Muslim groups have reacted with scepticism to the renewed debate over the wearing of full-face veils in schools and have said it is a small issue affecting tiny numbers.
Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council for Britain, could not disguise his frustration. “These issues come up every couple of years,” he said. “Every couple of years there’s a big debate, ‘should we ban it, what should we do?’”
In fact, he said, it was an issue that affected a tiny number. “I’m not aware of any children wearing it. I think the concern they are raising is about teachers wearing it, but the numbers are very, very small.
“The number of women wearing the full-face veil in general is very small. The number of teachers wearing the face veil is even tinier…”
“Our position has been quite consistent. We need to avoid this hysteria that happens every time about an issue that affects very few people. We need to have sensible policies in place that accommodate the needs of everyone.”
He said it was about being pragmatic and removing the veil where appropriate, whether it was teachers responding to the needs of children in school, hospital staff responding to the needs of a patient, or a veiled woman in a situation where she needed to be identified.
“There are very few who would go into a class and refuse to be sensible on this issue,” he said…
Shaista Gohir, chair of the Muslim Women’s Network, said she was in favour of schools banning veils in class for under-16s, as it was important for faces to be visible in a classroom in order to aid learning…
“When it comes to under-16s the school should have a policy of no veils in class. At that age you’ve got no choice but to be in education. You need to be learning and it could be an impediment to education.
“After 16 it gets a bit trickier. You can leave school, you can go to college or sixth form, but you don’t have to be there. You might think: ‘I’m old enough to get married, but here you are saying I can’t wear a face veil…’”
Is the Muslim Council of Britain right to try and get a bit of perspective into the scale of the issue here – is there an element of hysteria about the reaction amongst politicians and the media?
In terms of rules, is the suggestion of a ban on under 16s but more leniency (however you define that) post-16 a sensible one? And should there be a ban for teaching staff?
Please give us your reactions in the comments or via Twitter…
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