Bishop reignites public row over the veil

By staff writers
December 24, 2006

The Anglican Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, has chosen Christmastide to reignite the row about religious dress in a plural society - by saying that legislation should be introduced giving some officials the power to remove the veil worn by Muslim women.

The remarks were made to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper in the light of what the bishop, backing the government, called "an unprecedented security situation". He also reiterated earlier remarks that people were "too worried about offending Muslims".

Dr Nazir-Ali has previously said jobs like teaching could require Muslim women not to wear full-face veils, reports the BBC. His comments come after it was claimed that a murder suspect may have fled the UK in a Muslim veil.

Members of Parliament in the UK have called for an inquiry into the claim about Mustaf Jamma, wanted in connection with the murder of Bradford police constable Sharon Beshenivsky.

However, the Home Office said the claim was unlikely to be true as women can be asked to lift veils in identity checks.

Bishop Nazir Ali, who was born in Pakistan and served an episcopate there, told the Sunday Telegraph that the Muslim community should integrate into British society.

He declared: "It is fine if they want to wear the veil in private. But there are occasions in public life when it is inappropriate for them to wear it."

The bishop, who has sided with hard-line conservatives in the Church of England, also renewed his attack on what he calls “political correctness” over Christmas.

His latest remarks will be seen as unhelpful by many involved in inter-faith bridge building.

Critics with the Anglican Communion say that having failed in his candidacy for the Archbishopric of Canterbury recently, Dr Nazir-Ali is seeking to make himself the leader of conservatives within his church, believing that these forces are in the ascendancy.

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