Why the burka is part of Britain: France and Britain compared

Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech before the Senate, in which he announced the ban of the burka in France, has stirred some emotion and discussion in Britain, where such law is far from being thought of. In her article Cassandra Jardine compares the two countries, pointing to the right to individual and religious expression in Britain.

Ahmed Versi, editor of the Muslim News, believes the way forward is through tolerance and understanding, not legislation — and is glad he lives in Britain for that reason. “Britain is the best country in Europe for Muslims. We complain, but we are freer here, and we have more dialogue with government. In France, Muslim organisations are not representative; here they are independent. In France, Muslims live in ghettos and have double the unemployment rate of the rest of the population. Many French women come to university in the UK because they want to study and wear the headscarf which in France they cannot.”

The article also quotes those who would welcome the burka-ban, not least some members of the Muslim community. “The French president should be applauded for initiating this debate,” Dr Taj Hargey of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford said. Dr Hargey describes the growing belief that Muslim women should cover their head, face and hands as “doctrinaire brain-washing”. Dr Usama Hasan, a reformist London Imam, also has “some sympathy” with Sarkozy: he too does not think it is necessary for women to wear the burka.