This weekend Ukip leader Paul Nuttall was interviewed on the Andrew Marr Show. He set out a new manifesto commitment to ban the face veils worn by some Muslim women, such as the burqa and niqab. This policy is at odds with comments he has previously made about face coverings. In 2013, he said:
"What we wouldn’t do is go down the line of enforcing a blanket ban. We are a libertarian party."
Nuttall explained his U-turn by citing the security threat facing the UK, saying:
"In an age of heightened terror, you need to see people’s faces"
When pressed by Andrew Marr on why Muslim women should face legislation about what they wear and not him, Nuttall responded "but you can see my face – I am not a security threat."
Nuttall might not be known for letting facts guide his judgement, but it is important to lay some out at the offset here.
Women make up only around five per cent of the prison population of the UK. 81 per cent of female prisoners are serving a sentence for a non-violent crime. If you do some Google research you will, of course, be able to find examples of women doing terrible things. That doesn’t detract from the fact that majority of violent crime is committed by men. Though terrorist incidents in the UK are comparatively uncommon, these too, are overwhelmingly carried out by men. In America, where access to guns makes mass killings more common than in the UK, 98 per cent involve a male perpetrator.
I’m pointing out what should be obvious. Men kill, maim and rape in greater numbers than similar crimes committed by women, regardless of race or religion. Yet, as a group, we don’t characterise them as a risk to public safety or place any restrictions upon them.
When discussing the cold, hard reality of male violence, the cries of ‘’not all men’’ are never far behind. The suggestion that even some white men pose a direct danger to others is met with anger. How dare we tar then all with the same brush?
Men themselves are also far more likely to be killed or harmed by other men, than a woman. On average, two women per week are killed by a partner or ex-partner. This is a form of intimate terrorism that would be described as such if it were perpetrated against any other demographic.
If you pick up a newspaper today you will see examples of white men harming women, children, minority ethnic groups and each other.
It is unlikely that this week you will read any reports of a UK terrorist incident. Even less likely that a Muslim woman in a veil would be the culprit.
The idea that restricting the freedom of Muslim women will keep us safe is illogical. It completely disregards the reality of violent crime in the UK. What this policy proposal does do, however, is fuel hatred and intolerance. It demonises Muslim women, while bolstering those who think that ripping off a woman’s niqab in the street is an act of patriotism.
Despite having no MPs, Ukip still dominate the agenda, aided by the right wing press. Scapegoating of Muslims is framed as reasonableness, or even good common sense.
In France, they have a full-face veil ban, as Nuttall pointed out during his Marr interview. Women can be fined up to €150 if they are veiled anywhere other than in their home, car or place of worship. If fined, they may also be required to attend a citizenship class.
The ban didn’t prevent the devastating Bastille Day Promenade des Anglais truck attack. Nor did the ban make any difference when a man shot a police officer on the Champs Elysees. And if it were in place in the UK it wouldn’t have prevented the Westminster bridge terror attack either.
Clothing restrictions wouldn’t stop 85,000 women and 12,000 men being raped in England and Wales each year.
Violent crime is ever-present, incessant and deeply harmful to our society. The terror threat to the UK is currently judged to be “severe” and we should treat that with the seriousness it deserves. However, that is not what Ukip’s veil ban for Muslim woman is designed to tackle. Dog whistle policies aren’t a replacement for analytical, fact-based action and intolerance should not be allowed to drive decision-making. The reality is, punishing Muslim women won’t end male violence. And it’s high time we recognised that security threat for what it is.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies