Former justice secretary Ken Clarke has said Muslim women should not be allowed to give evidence in court while wearing the niqab because it “undermines the trial” when they are “in a kind of bag”.
The Tory politician said body language was vital because it allowed the jury to acknowledge if someone was telling the truth or conceaing it, and this could be ascertained by seeing facial expressions.
But the cabinet minister has angered many Muslims with his choice of words to describe the niqab.
He told BBC Radio 4′s The World This Weekend: “It’s almost impossible to have a proper trial if one of the persons (is) in a kind of bag.”
Mr Clarke said usually women should be allowed to wear what they want and insisted he was not being Islamaphobic when making the suggestion.
He added: “I don’t see how on earth a judge and a jury can really appraise evidence when you’re facing someone who is cloaked and is completely invisible to you. I actually think it undermines a trial.”
The comments follow a ruling in September that a Muslim woman had to remove her niqab when giving evidence.
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Home secretary Theresa May has previously said the decision of whether to wear a veil should be left to the individual, although she admitted in some cases the veil would have to be removed.