Two thirds of the British public agree with the statement ‘the burqa should be banned in Britain’, our poll has found, in the wake of the ban on the niqab, or any face covering (with a few exceptions) coming into force in France this week.
We polled over 2,000 nationally representative British adults, in a question that explained the burqa is a loose garment worn by some Islamic women, which covers the face and body in public, and which is removed when the woman returns home to her household out of the view of men who are not her immediate family members.
- 66% agreed with the statement ‘the burqa should be banned in Britain’
- 42% strongly agreed
- 27% disagreed with the statement, with 9% strongly disagreeing
- Men and women are largely in agreement over the issue (68% of men and 65% of women think it should be banned)
- While older people are more likely than their younger counterparts to favour a ban (79% of the over 60s agreed with a ban, compared to 51% of those aged 18 to 24)
Freedom and human rights
The banning in France of anything which covers the face, notably and most controversially including some Islamic items of clothing like the burqa and niqab, has been the subject of fierce discussion and debate in recent months, with some saying it is right to end what they see as a coercive practice that inhibits women’s freedom, and others arguing that dictating what people can and cannot wear infringes basic human rights.
According to the new law, any woman wearing a banned face covering, such as a burqa, can be fined up to 150€ (around £130) and be made to take a citizenship class, and anyone found coercing a woman into covering her face risks severe penalties. Anyone who wishes to enforce the ban can legitimately ask a woman wearing such items to remove them, and can take her to the local police station or magistrate if she refuses.
Improving gender equality?
President Nicolas Sarkozy has championed the ban, prompting newspapers and blogs to comment on whether France is having an ‘identity crisis’. For his part, Prime Minister François Fillon has attempted to neutralise the debate, referring to the bill as against ‘covering one's face in public places’, and emphasising that it aims to improve gender equality, not unfairly target Muslims.
Only a relatively small amount of French Muslim women wear full-face coverings, it has been reported, from a Muslim population in France of 5 million. In contrast, Britain’s Muslim population is around 2.4 million.