British people are broadly opposed to the niqab – the full-face veil which shows only the wearer’s eyes – being worn in any public place, exclusive research for Channel 4 News reveals.
An exclusive ComRes poll for Channel 4 News showed that more than half of the public believe women should not be allowed to wear the niqab in public – with 55 per cent backing an outright ban similar to the one in France.
An even greater proportion, 81 per cent, say they support a ban on wearing the niqab in certain public places, such as schools, courts or hospitals.
Controversy has dogged the niqab in recent weeks. In September, a college in Birmingham was forced to drop a ban on Muslim face veils after a Channel 4 News report, but in the same month a judge ruled that Muslim women must remove the full face veil to give evidence. However, he said that women would be allowed to wear the niqab when facing trial, and called on parliament to provide a definitive answer.
ComRes surveyed 1,077 British adults on 23 October as part of the Channel 4 News series, Britain’s Niqab?, which aims to explore attitudes towards Muslim headwear.
In the Channel 4 News/ComRes poll, three-quarters of people said they are unsure of how to relate to women wearing the full face veil, and more than half think it is demeaning to people who wear it.
Generally, people feel unsure about the niqab rather than in any way threatened or nervous about it, the poll found; but 71 per cent disagree with the claim that wearing it can be empowering.
In fact, just over half of all those asked (51 per cent) said that women who wear any type of veil or head covering at all, not just the more controversial niqab, face widespread discrimination.