Warsi backs the burkha

By Ian Dunt

Baroness Warsi, the only Muslim woman at the top of government, has finally come out in support of women who wear the burkha.

Her intervention follows a renewed debate on the covering, sparked by a French decision to ban it and a private member’s bill from Tory MP Philip Hollobone calling on Britain to follow suit.

“Why should we tell women what to wear?” the chairman of the Tory party told the Guardian.

“What it boils down to is choice. If women don’t have a choice over what to wear then they are oppressed.

“But if a woman has a choice, and she chooses to wear whatever she chooses to wear, then she’s not oppressed, is she? She’s choosing what she wants.

“Just because a woman wears the burkha, it doesn’t mean she can’t engage in everyday life.”

She added: “There are women who wear the burkha who run extremely successful businesses – internet businesses, which don’t actually require you to be there face to face. The principle is one of equality and opportunity.”

The comments, from the person once dubbed the most powerful Muslim woman in Britain, come on top of supportive statements from Caroline Spelman, environment secretary and the second most powerful woman in the Cabinet, who stressed that burkhas could be empowering for women.