BRITISH academic and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins has angered Muslim groups by comparing the burqa to a trash bag.
The 69-year-old author referred to the burqa as a “full bin-liner thing” in a magazine interview while discussing his forthcoming documentary about the dangers of faith schools.
Muslim organisations reacted angrily to the throwaway comment.
"I think it is ignorant and Islamaphobic," said Seyyed Ferjani, of the Muslim Association of Britain.
"Britain is a diverse and free society. It is a woman’s choice if she wishes to wear a burqa, a niqab or not. Why does it matter to this man what a woman is wearing? We should be encouraging respect and understanding for each other."
Professor Dawkins, who is the author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion, stood by his remark, made in the Radio Times, in a subsequent interview with the Daily Mail. "I do feel visceral revulsion at the burqa because for me it is a symbol of the oppression of women."
But he said he was not keen to endorse a full ban on the burqa in Britain - as the French Government voted to do last month.
"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 said.
The Oxford University evolutionary biologist said that religious schools encouraged social segregation.
In one Muslim school he investigated for his documentary none of the pupils believed in evolution.
He said: "Their first recourse was not 'What's the evidence?' but 'What does the Koran say?'"
Professor Dawkins usually attracts criticism for his views on Christianity, but he has upset Muslims before.
In 2008 he said: "It's almost impossible to say anything against Islam in this country, because you are accused of being racist or Islamophobic."
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