CAIRO – Adding to the controversy raised about hijab and face-veil, UK Muslims criticized a statement published by a leading British Muslim body saying that women cannot debate wearing the veil as igniting unnecessary debates.
“There is no case for a French-style ban in the UK and virtually no serious person supports it,” Haras Rafiq, of the moderate Muslim think-tank, Centri, told the Sunday Telegraph on April 17.
“But by this statement, effectively suggesting that the veil is an obligation, the MCB have put themselves at the opposite extreme of the spectrum.”
The criticism followed a statement published by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) telling women that that wearing the veil is "not open to debate".
"We advise all Muslims to exercise extreme caution on this issue, since denying any part of Islam may lead to disbelief,” the MCB said in a statement published on its website.
The umbrella Muslim group warned that denying the obligation of hijab for Muslim women is a shortcoming.
"Not practicing something enjoined by Allah and his Messenger… is a shortcoming. Denying it is much more serious.
The statement further quoted a statement from the holy Qur`an.
"It is not for a believer, man or woman, that they should have any option in their decision when Allah and his Messenger have decreed a matter."
The MCB statement was published in the wake of an earlier controversy about face-veil.
It is signed by 27 Islamic groups and scholars including the MCB's then secretary-general, Mohammad Abdul Bari, and his deputy, Daud Abdullah.
A French law banning the wearing of face-veil – burqa or niqab - in public places took into force last week.
While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil, or niqab, but believe that it is up to women to decide whether to cover her face.
The MCB, a coalition of some 400 organizations, is the largest Muslim umbrella group in Britain.
No UK Ban
Though denying British intensions to carry out a similar ban for face-veil or niqab, many warned that such a ban would enforce extremist voices that Islam was targeted in UK.
"A ban would be manna from heaven for the extremists," Rafiq told the Sunday Telegraph.
"It would reinforce the Islamist claim that society is picking on Muslims. People who don't wear it would take it up as a political cause."
Peter Golds, the Tory leader in Tower Hamlets, agrees.
"It would be unenforceable, and if it was enforced it would lead to civil unrest," he says.
"It is not for governments to decide what people should wear."
Last week, the British Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May ruled out a similar ban on the Muslim outfit.
Despite the government reiteration that Britain is committed to tolerance and acceptance of other cultures, calls have grown in Britain for a similar ban after enacting the French Law last September.
A YouGov survey conducted last year found that some 67 percent of Britons favor face-veils to be made illegal.
Last year, lawmaker Philip Hollobone introduced a bill in the parliament for Britain to follow France in outlawing face-veils in public.
The right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) has also supported calls for a veil ban in Britain.
Moreover, records show that hostility against British Muslims, estimated at nearly two million, have been on the rise recently.
Last September, a leading British college banned Muslim women’s veil on campus in what officials called a security measure.
Last January, Tory minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi warned that Islamophobia has become normal and accepted in British society.
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