Tim Ross, London Telegraph, October 16, 2010
Opponents of the veil claim it oppresses women and presents a barrier between those who wear traditional dress and the rest of society.
But in a new report from think-tank Civitas, Alveena Malik, a former faith adviser to the last Labour government, said the test of whether religious symbols are appropriate should be based on whether they are practical.
Politicians in France and Belgium have voted in favour of banning the full veil, or “niqab”, and other European countries are thought to be considering similar action.
In a new report, Women, Islam and Western Liberalism, Mrs Malik said: “We in Britain need to take a different direction from others in Europe and to accept the veil as part of a modern British way of life.”
She continued: “The wearing of religious symbols, including the full veil, should be a fundamental human right of an individual in both the public and private sphere.
“The real test for religious symbols in the public sphere should always be: ‘Does the wearing of a symbol (such as the kirpan, turban, yarmulke, crucifix and the veil) hinder a citizen’s ability to perform their public civic duties?'”
Britain is in a “unique” position to embrace such a public display of faith because of the role the church plays in the affairs of the state and its “multicultural diversity”.
Mrs Malik was appointed by last government to a panel of faith advisers for the Department for Communities. She has overseen British Council guidance on “intercultural dialogue”.