Muslim students and visitors have been banned from wearing veils in a controversial new crackdown on security at a leading sixth-form college. Staff posted a notice in the reception area advising anyone coming on site to “remove items of clothing which cover their face”. But the move has angered Muslim groups who say people should be allowed to wear what they like.
The ban is “an essential element for a safe environment” said Burnley College in Lancashire. However, the University of Central Lancashire, which operates out of the same campus, permits veils.
“There are human rights issues at stake here. People have the right and freedom to wear what they want,” said Abdul Hamid Qureshi, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques. “It seems Burnley College has one policy on veils and the university has another and I just think to ban veils altogether is excessive. If security is an issue the person coming in a burka should show their face to the security guard at the college,” he added.
Labour councillor Wajid Khan said: “People should be able to wear what they want – this is the beautiful thing about our society, to be able to wear what you want. This choice and diversity is why our country is so great. We have this equality of opportunity and we have this real tolerance,” added Mr Khan, a course leader at the University of Central Lancashire.
In 2009, the same college sparked a row when Shawana Bilqes, 18, was banned from wearing a burka, a move she claimed forced her to abandon a HE Diploma course. “It is not possible to maintain essential full communication if the face of any student is not fully visible,” said the then principal John Smith.
See also the Daily Express which reports that “bosses at a leading sixth-form college were praised yesterday for their ‘commonsense approach’ in banning Islamic veils, including burkhas, in a security crackdown”. The two individuals quoted as supporting Burnley College’s decision are Tory MPs Philip Davies and Philip Hollobone.
Update: See “Call for Burnley College to rethink headwear ban”, BBC News, 24 September 2010