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Should there be a referendum on banning the Burka?

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Boris Johnson’s comments need no introduction, but they have caused a huge divide among celebrities as well as the general public. The media have covered this story for multiple days, and various people’s reactions. However, instead of discussing whether he was correct to use the “letterbox” analogy and other phrases, the central debate should be about whether we want Burkas in a Western society. Boris Johnson was remarkably clever in the article he wrote, because he knew the reaction to his story would trigger a  more general debate about the Burka.

boris johnson
Boris Johnson MP referred to burkas as letterboxes

The UK is familiar with referendums, as it is a way for people to send a direct message to the government and parliament. Democracy is the foundation of the UK’s modern history and referendums are a brilliant way to solve divisive issues. Although the Brexit referendum was intense, it solved an issue that had been puzzling the public ever since we joined.

theresa may pmq
Prime Minister Theresa May called for Boris Johnson to apologise for his comments

 

However, a referendum on the Burka would be unique, as it is about a culture issue rather than a political one. Furthermore, it would undoubtedly split the country, as it would very much be the “left wing” opposing a ban and the “right wing” supporting it. There would be both advantages and disadvantages of having a ban, but democracy is crucial to UK society.

Advantages:

  • It would solve an issue which seems to be at the heart of controversial political in Europe.
  • It is the public’s right to have a say on the matter.
  • The referendum would allow further discussion on culture and what people want the UK to look like in the future.

Disadvantages:

  • There is potential for the referendum to increase Islamophobia and a rise in hate crimes.
  • The Islamic community would feel like outcasts in a society of tolerance.
  • The argument that referendums should only occur on constitutional issues, and instead allow our representatives (MP’s) to decide.

Following Boris Johnson’s comments, celebrities have expressed their opinions. The ITV show Loose Women had a united panel arguing that the Burka is certainly oppressive and they said that it was not fair on women. However, in the political world people have called the comments disgusting. Prime Minister Theresa May called for Boris to apologise, and one Conservative Peer even called for Mr Johnson to step down as the MP for Uxbridge.

What is the law in European Countries?

France – First European countries to ban the burka in public. A new law was passed in 2004 to prevent any religious symbols being shown in school. In 2011 there was a full burka ban in public.

Belgium – Full burka ban in public introduced in 2011.

The Netherlands – In 2015 a partial ban on the full veil was introduced. There are specific places where the veil is banned; such as schools and hospitals.

Italy – Some parts of the country have introduced a partial ban, but only on a regional governmental level.

Spain – Catalonia has laws against the burka, but the Spanish Supreme Court overturned the ban.

Will there ever be a ban on the burka in the UK? Only time will tell. However, after Boris Johnson’s comments and the rise in popularity of Tommy Robinson, the burka debate is only going to intensify in the future!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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