Arch-atheist Richard Dawkins accused of Islamophobia for his views on the burka
The prominent atheist academic Richard Dawkins has waded into the controversy over the burka, calling it a "full bin-liner" and describing his "visceral revulsion" for it. However, Dawkins, a libertarian as well as an atheist, stopped short of calling for the all-enveloping Islamic veil to be banned.
Dawkins was giving an interview to the Radio Times to promote his forthcoming documentary, Faith Schools Menace, in which he calls for an end to the public subsidy of faith schools.
Surprisingly, Dawkins admits faith schools have made a major contribution to mass education in Britain, saying the founding of schools by the Church of England and the Catholic church in the 19th century was a "great philanthropic effort".
But he has less time for Islam's treatment of women. He described his "visceral revulsion" when he sees "one of the full bin-liner things" - a reference to the burka.
Dawkins later told the Daily Mail: "I do feel visceral revulsion at the burka because for me it is a symbol of the oppression of women."
But a spokeswoman for the Muslim Association of Britain dismissed talk of oppression and accused Dawkins of "Islamophobia". She told the Daily Telegraph: "This kind of thing has been on the rise for some time. Britain is a diverse and free society. It is a woman's choice if she wishes to wear a burka... Why does it matter to this man what a woman is wearing?"
Dawkins's "visceral revulsion" is in marked contrast to that of senior members of the British government. Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said the burka "confers dignity" on women and can even be "empowering", while Conservative party chairman Baroness Warsi said "if a woman has a choice, and she chooses to wear whatever she chooses to wear then she's not oppressed is she?"
But, like the coalition government, Dawkins is against a ban on the burka: "As a liberal I would hesitate to propose a blanket ban on any style of dress because of the implications for individual liberty and freedom of choice," he explains.
Here he is at odds with the vast majority of British people. A recent survey showed that 67 per cent of British voters want to follow the example of France, where the lower house of Parliament last month banned the wearing of a burka in public places.
Read more: Richard Dawkins: my revulsion for the 'bin-liner' burka | People in the News | People | The First Post
This pisses me off so much. Mainly because there is not much we can do to help these women. Especially for the ones that hate it.
Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know "why" I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved.
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