Burkini ban: Newsnight presenter James O'Brien questions what would happen if nuns were forced to remove their habit

'Making this middle-aged woman take off a tunic on a beach in Nice apparently makes French people safer. Really?' asks the presenter

Maya Oppenheim
Wednesday 24 August 2016 13:29
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James O'Brien on the burkini ban How would you feel if a nun was forced to take off her habit on a beach

James O’Brien has highlighted the hypocrisy of the burkini ban in France by challenging those who support it to explain how they would feel if nuns were forced to remove their habits.

His comments come after armed police forced a woman on a beach in Nice to remove her burkini on Tuesday as part of a controversial new ban. The incident took place on the beach at the city's Promenade des Anglais, the scene of last month’s Bastille Day lorry attack.

O’Brien, who is a presenter on LBC radio station and Newsnight, argued the ban would only be fair if the French government chose to impose it on all women who were covered up for religious reasons.

The presenter said he would be morally outraged if his headmistress Sister Mary Frances had been ordered to take off her habit on the beach on a school trip.

Speaking on on his LBC show on Wednesday, O’Brien said: “Making this middle-aged woman take off a tunic on a beach in Nice apparently makes French people safer. Really?”

“If they were ordering everybody else to take off full body coverings on this beach, it would at least have the consistency of law,” he added. “It would not be one law for you according to your religion and another law for everybody else.”

“How would you feel if a nun at gunpoint was told to take off her habit?”

“Sister Mary Frances was my headmistress when I was six years old. I would find that so outrageous, so absolutely outrageous that Sister Mary Frances would be told to take off her habit when she took us on a school trip to Wales. How would you feel, hand on heart if nuns were being told in France to take off their habit on beaches?"

The images of four police officers armed with handguns, batons and pepper spray surrounding the woman have prompted a fierce debate online.

The resort where the incident took place is one of over a dozen in France which have implemented the ban during the summer months.

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