Twitter backlash over Devon MP’s ‘ban Islamic veils’ comments
A Conservative MP has sparked a Twitter backlash after she said Islamic veils should be banned in all schools – suggesting they were “deeply offensive”.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes in Devon, said the niqab was “making women invisible” in a string of online comments.
She wrote on Twitter: “The niqab should be banned within schools & colleges; how on earth do they promote equality when they collude with making women invisible?”
Moments later, the MP posted another message saying: “A general ban on the niqab simply won’t happen in the UK but that doesn’t mean that it should be endorsed by schools or courts.”
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But within seconds she had sparked a backlash from dozens of online followers who accused her of “missing the point”.
One woman replied: “How about asking a woman who wears niqab what she thinks about her freedom? Or does her opinion does not matter?“
Muslim commentator Mohammed Ansar said that Dr Wollaston’s Twitter feed had attracted what he thought were bigoted and “Islamaphobic” comments in his opinion.
He added: “Do you accept and support the right of a woman to dress as she wishes?“
Her comments come after a Birmingham college performed a last-minute U-turn after it sparked outrage by banning Muslim students from wearing burkas.
Birmingham Metropolitan College barred religious veils, as well as hoodies and caps, in a controversial crackdown claiming safety reasons.
But the move angered Islamic groups and students at the college.
Birmingham Metropolitan College originally said students must remove all hoodies, hats, caps and veils while on the premises so that they were easily identifiable.
Prime Minister David Cameron backed the decision, with his spokesman saying he believed educational institutions should be able to “set and enforce their own school uniform policies”.
But Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he was “uneasy” about the ban and believed the bar had to be set “very high” to justify any prohibition on wearing a veil.
The college later issued a statement saying it has decided to modify its stance to allow individuals to wear “specific items of personal clothing to reflect their cultural values”.
The decision came after thousands signed a petition against the ban and ahead of a planned protest by hundreds of students in Birmingham.
A statement posted on the college’s Facebook page earlier said: “Birmingham Metropolitan College is committed to high quality education for all of our learners.
“We are concerned that recent media attention is detracting from our core mission of providing high quality learning. As a consequence, we will modify our policies to allow individuals to wear specific items of personal clothing to reflect their cultural values.
“The college will still need to be able to confirm an individual’s identity in order to maintain safeguarding and security.
“The necessity to comply with national regulations, examination board requirements and applicable legislation will remain an overriding priority in all circumstances, as will the need to ensure that effective teaching and learning methodologies are applied.
“We have listened to the views of our students and we are confident that this modification to our policies will meet the needs of all of our learners and stakeholders.
“We remain committed to ensuring that students are provided with a safe and welcoming environment and the best education and training opportunities available.”