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Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Anger over right-wing call for ban on burka (UK)

Calls to ban burkas by the Exeter chairman of a far right- wing movement have sparked an angry reaction in the city.

As reported in the Echo there are fears that the English Defence League is growing in popularity, with several meetings now held in the city and hundreds signed up to a Facebook group in support.

The group, which claims to be non-racially or politically motivated, has seen violence at many of its demonstrations around the country, with the latest in Dudley at the weekend resulting in scores of arrests.

It was formed just over a year ago to fight "Islamic fundamentalists" but it is feared the more followers it attracts in Exeter the more chance of a repeat of the shocking attack on a Muslim woman on the Exe Bridges recently.
The chairman of its Exeter division, Jim Myers, a door supervisor in the city, has sparked further controversy by saying Britain needed to follow the French lead and ban the burka.

He said: "If the British wear the EDL hoodie it is classed as anti-social but the burka can be worn and they class it as religion. If you go into a bar or a shop wearing a crash helmet you have to take it off for security reasons, so what is the difference? The French are banning the burka, and I think we should as well."

A ban on women covering their faces with the burka in public is going through the French parliament and a Private Member's Bill has been tabled in the Commons calling for Britain to follow suit.

But Immigration Minister Damian Green told the Echo a ban would be unlikely in the UK, because it would be at odds with the UK's "tolerant and mutually respectful society".

He said: "Telling people what they can and can't wear, if they're just walking down the street, is a rather un-British thing to do. We're a tolerant and mutually respectful society."

His views were echoed by Lizi Allnatt, of the Exeter branch of Unite Against Fascism, who voiced concerns that the EDL was exploiting the issue to promote an anti-Muslim agenda.

She said: "I really don't think the public are that concerned by the issue of the burka. I just get very concerned when the EDL starts talking about the Muslim community, as we know how anti-Muslim they are.

"When the ordinary person on the street has a problem with it, it might be the time to look at the issue. But this is just part and parcel of the way they use an anti-Islamic agenda to whip feelings up.

"The EDL's merchandise page includes a face mask and burka-style hoodie. Muslims who do wear the burka would argue that they are doing so as part of their culture or religion, whereas the only reason the EDL wear it is so that they won't so easily be identified by the police on their violent protests."

No one from the Exeter Islamic Centre was available to comment on the issue.

This is Exeter