Several European countries are in the process of "banning the burqa", where burqa is used here as a generic term for Islamic women's headdress.
In France a ban has just been approved by a substantial majority in the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly. It will go before the Senate in September and is generally expected to be passed into law at that time.
The Spanish parliament will debate a burqa ban later this week. There's cross-party agreement so the ban is likely to the implemented, probably by the end of the year. (The Spanish parliament has a long Summer break coming up.)
Meanwhile here in the UK, the Government, in the form of Immigration Minister Damian Green, has said banning certain items of clothing is un-British and the UK government will not do it. This is in response to an Early Day Motion (EDM) from Conservative MP for Kettering Philip Hollobone, which seeks to ban all face coverings in public places.
Let's have a little look at what we're talking about...
Clearly walking down the street in either of those garments is to make yourself an object of ridicule. And to be addressed by someone hiding behind a cloth screen would be insulting. Philip Hollobone has said he will not talk to women wearing these things at his MP's surgeries.
This is fair enough. Why should he be expected to try to communicate through a tiny grill? And why should anyone be expected to talk to someone whose identity is hidden.
But Philip Hollobone's EDM is not the answer, and Damian Green is right - it is un-British to ban certain items of clothing.
Hollobone goes too far with his EDM. He seeks to ban all facial coverings in public places. His net is too wide. He would criminalise brides on their way to church, children out trick-or-treating, motorcyclists, fencing enthusiasts, and anyone needing to wear protective equipment on their face such as people working with solvents.
The reason he goes too far is simple political correctness. He can't bring himself to say "ban the burqa and just the burqa". He feels he has to bring others into his proscription just so it doesn't look like he's picking on muslims, and he argues that the underlying reasoning is security; not because we don't like seeing a foreign religion paraded on our streets, which is the real reason.
So Damian Green is right, and Hollobone is wrong on this issue. What we should be banning is the Islamic religion itself. We should tackle the problem at source. Islam (strictly speaking, some strands of Islam) oppresses women, and that is more un-British than any mere garment. Britain, it should be remembered, extended the vote to all women before any other nation. (Some women were voting in North America before that, but this was prior to 1776 in areas that were still under British rule.) In the Islamic heartland, Saudi Arabia, women still can't vote.
The Koran calls upon its followers to treat unbelievers harshly, to behead them and cut off their fingertips! (Verse 8:12, it's not clear what the point of cutting off someone's fingertips after you've beheaded them is! Islam is not the most logical of religions.)
Preaching the Koran would be an illegal incitement to murder were it not implicitly protected by being a religion. Ironically the only good muslim is a bad muslim. If a muslim lives by the Koran he is a good muslim but a bad person, and he if disregards the Koran he is a good person but a bad muslim. And it should be noted that although we non-muslims can be at risk of fundamentalist Islamic violence, by far the greatest number of victims of Islamic fundamentalists are other muslims. Being a bad muslim (in the eyes of another muslim) can be far worse for your health than not being a muslim at all.
In short, it's time to get this alien religion out of our country. It is turning back the clock on freedom of conscience, on women's rights, and its tenets are not in accordance with our laws or historical customs.
So don't ban the burqa, just ban Islam.