Tuesday, August 10, 2010
The 69-year-old author and scientist told of his ‘visceral revulsion’ when he sees women wearing the controversial Islamic clothing.
But he stopped short of calling for the UK to follow the French in banning them, insisting such legislation would not be in Britain’s liberal tradition.
His comments prompted fury among Muslim groups who accused him of being ‘ignorant’ and ‘Islamophobic’.
Professor Dawkins made the comments in an interview with Radio Times discussing his forthcoming documentary about the dangers of faith schools.
Last night he stood by his remarks and told the Daily Mail: ‘I do feel visceral revulsion at the burka because for me it is a symbol of the oppression of women.’
He said: ‘As a liberal I would hesitate to propose a blanket ban on any style of dress because of the implications for individual liberty and freedom of choice.’
Last month the French government voted to ban from public places the burka, which is like a cloak covering the entire body, and the niqab, a piece of cloth covering the face, while Belgium and Spain are set for similar votes.
But Immigration Minister Damian Green effectively ruled out the UK following suit, arguing a ban would be ‘rather un-British’ and run contrary to the conventions of a ‘tolerant and mutually respectful society’.
However, some 67 per cent of UK voters want full-face veils to be outlawed.
Seyyed Ferjani, of the Muslim Association of Britain, said of Professor Dawkins’ comments: ‘I think it is ignorant and Islamaphobic.
‘This kind of thing has been on the rise for some time. Britain is a diverse and free society.
‘It is a woman’s choice if she wishes to wear a burka, a niqab or not. Why does it matter to this man what a woman is wearing?
‘We should be encouraging respect and understanding for each other.’
Professor Dawkins made his comments ahead of his documentary arguing for the abolition of faith schools.
In Faith Schools Menace?, on More4 next week, the Oxford University evolutionary biologist says religious schools encourage social segregation.
He asks why public money should be spent labelling children on the basis of ‘something as arbitrary as religion’.
His investigations for the documentary left him shocked. In one Muslim school in Leicester none of the pupils believed in evolution.
He said: ‘Their first recourse was not “what’s the evidence?” but “what does the Koran say?”.’
It is not the first time Professor Dawkins, who is the author of books including The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion, has attracted criticism for his views on Islam.
In 2008, he said: ‘It’s almost impossible to say anything against Islam in this country, because you are accused of being racist or Islamophobic.’
Posted by Cole at 3:56 AM