The minister for faith and communities told a meeting of Bradford Muslims that no Government she would be a part of would ban women from wearing a veil in public.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was speaking at the Khidmat Centre on Spencer Road, Lidget Green, yesterday as part of a roadshow where she tours the country to speak about the importance of community cohesion.
She had been invited to Bradford by the Council for Mosques, and spent 90 minutes answering questions, mainly about Muslims in modern society.
After the discussion she spoke to the T&A about recent reports from Birmingham that extremist Muslims were trying to force non-Muslim heads out of schools, and that the practice could soon spread to Bradford. She said schools could not be allowed to become extremist havens.
When asked about radicalisation of young Muslims, she said it was much more likely to happen through the internet rather than in mosques. But she added: “Muslim groups that do have problems with extremists need more help to deal with them. Dealing with extremism is something that has to be led by the community, and the Government has to support them. There is the danger that Muslim and other faith groups would feel like they are being spied upon if the Government gets too involved.”
An alleged extremist plot to oust teachers, called Operation Trojan Horse has been flagged up to Birmingham Council, and Bradford Council has been working with appropriate agencies to investigate links to the city.
On Operation Trojan, Baroness Warsi said: “I have seen the media reports although I am not too familiar with the details of the case. What I do know is that we have an educational policy that supports the right of parents to be involved in the education of their children. But we must not allow any school to become a haven for extremism and it is important that the Department for Education doesn’t let this happen.”
During the question and answer session, one female muslim asked Baroness Warsi about the issue of veils.
Conservative MP Philip Hollobone had called for a ban on women covering their face earlier this month.
As reported in the Telegraph & Argus last week, Shipley MP Philip Davies has since said Muslim women should not cover their faces at border controls, banks, police stations or courts.
Baroness Warsi was asked if such comments by MPs in her party fed into Islamaphobia. She replied: “I can guarantee that no Government I am a part of will ban the Niqab. I firmly believe that women have the right to wear a niqab or hijab. To me, whether it is part of Islam is a secondary issue – the issue is over women’s right to wear what they want. The views of individual MPs don’t reflect the entire Tory Party.”