Cork councillor calls for veil ban

A Cork councillor has called for a ban on burkas, balaclavas or other any clothing that masks identity, on the grounds of public safety.

Cllr Joe O’Callaghan (FG) said now was the time to deal with the issue as those affected are a “tiny minority”. His comments were rejected by, among others, Ali Selim, of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, who described the proposal as “unnecessary”.

Mr O’Callaghan proposed a motion to Cork City Council, calling on Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to ban burkas and give gardaí powers to order youths to remove their hoodies.

“I knew this would cause controversy but I live in a free country and if I have an opinion I will express it. I’m doing it now because I feel now is the time to address this issue, not in five years’ time,” he said. The councillor said burkas, along with balaclavas and hoodies, have become unacceptable in public places for reasons of “public safety and common sense” following recent riots in London.

He added the burka had no place in modern Irish society. “Wearing a burka is an affront to women in this day and age and this view has been endorsed by one of our local Muslim leaders in Cork. I fail to accept that anyone with any cop-on would like to wrap themselves in what looks like a curtain all day,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

He endorsed the introduction of an Irish law making it obligatory not to cover one’s identity in public.

Mr Selim said the councillor was placing the burka, which has religious significance, in the same context as the hoodie, which has a criminal context.

“How many women has he talked to? And if some women choose to dress this way, why is he imposing a different way of clothing upon them?” Mr Selim said. “Ireland is a society with a good understanding of religion. There are lots of traditions shared between Irish society and Muslim communities. We should aim to unite on friendly ground, not aim to cause conflict among members of the same society.”

Irish Times, 20 August 2011