22 Sep 2023

The East London Mosque (ELM) expresses deep concern over this week’s report published by Policy Exchange urging the government to effectively police the dress codes of Muslim women. Under the guise of opposing Iran, the right-wing think tank is effectively calling on restricting religious freedoms for British Muslim women.

ELM firmly believes that most Muslim women wear the hijab out of their own volition as a testament to their faith and identity. The attempt to link this deeply personal choice to Iran and Afghanistan’s policies is misleading and a coded attack on the Islamic faith.

Every individual’s right to express their faith should be protected. The wearing or not wearing of the hijab is a personal choice, and any narrative suggesting imposition is a gross misunderstanding, which right-wing extremists and Islamophobic groups have peddled to curtail the freedom of Muslim women over the years.

ELM further opposes Policy Exchange’s call to the government to intervene on the veil issue as it potentially blurs the crucial lines separating religion from the state. Such measures not only pose a threat to religious freedom and the democratic values that the UK upholds, but they also create barriers between communities. 

We call on the government to reject Policy Exchange’s misguided recommendations, which will only sow division and harm community relations. Muslim women’s attire does not undermine British values – instead, imposing restrictions and denying Muslim women choice betrays the very principles of liberty and tolerance.