Berkshire

Muslim woman wearing veil 'refused bus ride' in London

A woman wearing a niqab
Image caption The women claim the driver said they were a "threat to him and his passengers"

Two Muslim women have claimed they were refused a bus ride because one had her face covered by a veil.

The students, both 22 and from Slough, Berkshire, boarded a Metroline bus from Russell Square to Paddington, London.

But they said when they presented their tickets on Monday, the driver told them they were a "threat" to passengers and ordered them off the bus.

The firm has started an "urgent" investigation. The Muslim Council of Britain said it was "deeply concerned".

The pair, who have made a formal complaint to the bus company, have asked the BBC not to reveal their full names.

Yasmin was wearing a hijab and Atoofa was dressed in a niqab - which covers the face.

Yasmin said at first she boarded the bus by mistake when it was not in service to ask where it was going, but was told by the driver to get off.

"About 10 minutes later... the passengers started getting on. When I went forward to show my ticket he said, 'Get off the bus'. I presumed he was still angry because I got on the bus before.

"He said, 'I am not going to take you on the bus because you two are a threat.'

"I realised it wasn't due to me getting on the bus, this may be a racist attack."

She asked for his contact details but when he refused she began to film him and he covered his face.

"I said, 'It's OK for you to cover your face on my recording but it's not OK for my friend to cover her face out of choice?'

"There was no point arguing with him, we got off the bus and by then my anger turned into emotion."

Muslim headscarves

The word hijab comes from the Arabic for veil and is used to describe the headscarves worn by Muslim women. These scarves come in myriad styles and colours. The type most commonly worn in the West is a square scarf that covers the head and neck but leaves the face clear.
The niqab is a veil for the face that leaves the area around the eyes clear. However, it may be worn with a separate eye veil. It is worn with an accompanying headscarf.
The burka is the most concealing of all Islamic veils. It covers the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh screen to see through.
The al-amira is a two-piece veil. It consists of a close fitting cap, usually made from cotton or polyester, and an accompanying tube-like scarf.
The shayla is a long, rectangular scarf popular in the Gulf region. It is wrapped around the head and tucked or pinned in place at the shoulders.
The khimar is a long, cape-like veil that hangs down to just above the waist. It covers the hair, neck and shoulders completely, but leaves the face clear.
The chador, worn by many Iranian women when outside the house, is a full-body cloak. It is often accompanied by a smaller headscarf underneath.
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However Atoofa, who had her face covered by the veil, said she hoped the driver would be educated about why women wear the traditional Islamic dress, rather than face the sack.

"I would like him to understand why we wear it and I think I would like an apology," she added.

"I want him to sit there and talk to me about why he felt the way he felt and maybe to understand where we are coming from."

A spokesperson from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said it could not comment on individual cases, but added it was "deeply concerned".

"Such incidents are sadly becoming more common," the spokesperson said.

"They have been fuelled against the climate of increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric and hostility, in particular on the part of sensationalised stories by the media, demonising Muslims in the eyes of the wider public."

It advised all victims to report incidents to the police.

Bus operator Metroline said it was taking the matter "very seriously" and would conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations.

"However, Metroline can unequivocally state that such views would not be representative of the company in any way and that we are committed to respecting equality and diversity for all," a spokesman added.

Metroline operates the service on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), which added that it was also investigating.

'Un-British values'

Earlier this month French MPs voted to ban the wearing of full face veils in public.

Several other countries including Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium have debated regulating the use of face covering garments.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said trying to pass a law banning women wearing the Islamic full veil in public would be "un-British" and at odds with the UK's "tolerant and mutually respectful society".

The comments came after Tory MP Philip Hollobone introduced a private members' bill which would make it illegal for people to cover their faces in public.

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