The Tories appear to be having a total mental breakdown about the burka / niqab. The new line, delivered by Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright this morning, is that it is wrong to describe it as “oppressive”. This is a very strange position for the Tory party to be taking – you have to wonder what on earth is going on. Guido is assured that Wright’s words are not the CCHQ line to take…
Prominent Muslim and feminist politicians on the left have long criticised face coverings. In 2016, Sadiq Khan said he believed the niqab could be “insidious” and asked “what is going on in those homes” where it is worn:
“When I was younger you didn’t see people in hijabs and niqabs, not even in Pakistan when I visited my family. In London we got on. People dressed the same. What you see now are people born and raised here who are choosing to wear the jilbab or niqab. There is a question to be asked about what is going on in those homes. What’s insidious is if people are starting to think it is appropriate to treat women differently or that it has been forced on them. What worries me is children being forced to adopt a lifestyle. Should women be permitted to cover their faces in London? It’s not for me to tell women what to wear. But I do think that in public service we should be able to see each other’s faces. Eye contact matters. You should be able to see the face.”
And this was Harriet Harman speaking in 2013, outlining her principled feminist opposition to the face veil as discriminatory towards women:
Yet senior Tories are now pushing the line that you can’t say the burka is oppressive. What do Tory MPs think about that?