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Criminalisation of the Burqa in the UK

Idriss, MM (2016) Criminalisation of the Burqa in the UK. The Journal of Criminal Law, 80 (2). pp. 124-137. ISSN 0022-0183

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Abstract

In 2010, the French government passed a law banning face coverings in public places. This includes shopping malls, restaurants and schools. Although worded widely, the law was drafted to prevent Muslim women from wearing the Islamic face veil in public. Those who wear it now risk facing a criminal conviction. In February 2014, the House of Commons held a Second Reading of the Face Coverings (Prohibition) Bill, which is very similar to the French law. Though it did not complete its passage through Parliament, the Bill signals an intention by some to ban face veils in British streets. This paper will examine the main arguments for and against the policy to criminalise the burqa and how a ban undermines the autonomy and identity of Muslim women. It will argue that a paternalistic law that instructs women what they can (or cannot) wear would be very alien to British culture. Analysis will also be provided on the Grand Chamber’s decision in SAS v France (2015) and the potential impact this might have for the UK and human rights law.

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