A ban on Muslim girls and young women wearing veils in public places should be considered, a Liberal Democrat minister has said.
Home Office minister Jeremy Browne called for a national debate on whether the state should step in to prevent young women having the veil imposed upon them.
A judge will decide today whether a Muslim woman should be allowed to stand trial while wearing a full-face veil.
Mr Browne said he was ‘instinctively uneasy’ about restricting religious freedoms.
But he argued there may be a case to act to protect girls who were too young to decide for themselves whether they wished to wear the veil or not.
‘I think this is a good topic for national debate,’ he told the Daily Telegraph, as the Lib Dem conference continued in Glasgow.
‘People of liberal instincts will have competing notions of how to protect and promote freedom of choice,’ he said.
‘I am instinctively uneasy about restricting the freedom of individuals to observe the religion of their choice.
‘That would apply to Christian minorities in the Middle East just as much as religious minorities here in Britain.
‘But there is genuine debate about whether girls should feel a compulsion to wear a veil when society deems children to be unable to express personal choices about other areas like buying alcohol, smoking or getting married.
‘We should be very cautious about imposing religious conformity on a society which has always valued freedom of expression.’
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has said it is not ‘appropriate’ for students to wear a full veil in the classroom or for people to go through airport security with their faces covered.
But the deputy prime minister said he did not want to see a state ban on the wearing of religious items of clothing in particular circumstances.
source: metro UK