British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday he supports a ban on Muslim veils in the country’s schools.
His comments came amid controversy over Islamic schools in Britain imposing religious dress as the uniform for young girls, according to recent media reports.
In an interview with the BBC, Cameron said he would consider issuing new guidelines to judges, teachers and immigration officers specifying when they can ask women to remove their veils.
“We are a free country and people should be free to wear whatever clothes they like in public or in private,” Cameron said, clarifying that he does not object to women wearing the veil in public places.
On wearing the veil in schools, however, Cameron had a different viewpoint.
“In a school, it’s very difficult to teach unless you can look at your pupils in the eye.” Cameron added.
Cameron’s latest comments on the debate over the veil ban, follow a political row earlier this month over a decision by Birmingham Metropolitan College to ban veils.
The college was accused of discriminating against Muslims after ordering all students, staff and visitors to remove any face covering.
The institution backed down on its decision, however, after an oppositional petition attracted thousands of signatures.
The burka as part of the uniform?
Meanwhile, Islamic schools in the country have recently been criticized for the uniform girls must wear.
The Daily Mail reported on Monday that students were required to wear hijabs in and out of class at a state-backed school in Blackburn.
Under the rules, pupils must “wear the hijab outside the school and home, recite the Quran at a least once a week,” the newspaper reported.
Last week, another school in the country was criticized for forcing women employees to cover their entire body and not wear symbols of other faiths, even if they are not Muslims.
Earlier this month, the Daily Mail also reported on a school which insists female pupils as young as 11 wear the burka as part of the uniform.
A number of Conservative MPs are urging the government to consider a full ban on the veil.
Earlier this month, a Muslim defendant was asked by a London judge to remove her veil in court while she was giving evidence and demanded the setting of detailed instructions on wearing veils in courts.
Cameron said he welcomes the idea of a national guideline for wearing the niqab in court, given that the jury need to be able to look at someone’s face in order to communicate with them.