A FORMER lord mayor is calling for an outright ban on burkas in Ireland, arguing that they pose a security risk.
Independent local election candidate Joe O’Callaghan said he stands by a motion to ban burkas and niqabs seven years after he first proposed it in Cork City Hall.
His controversial remarks come in the wake of Sri Lanka’s ban on face coverings in public after a spate of Easter Sunday suicide attacks that killed at least 250 people and injured hundreds more.
Mr O’Callaghan defended his stance, saying: “They (burkas and niqabs) are a joke in this day and age, particular in these dangerous times we live in. Under no circumstances should they be allowed.
“It’s a question of security and integration.
“We have the freest, most open country in the world. There is no reason to hide your face.
“Unfortunately, we are too soft and afraid to make any rule around this. We want to be the nicest people in the world.
“When the Irish went abroad they didn’t adopt some alien form of dress or customs. We are told that women aren’t being forced to dress like this. However, I don’t accept that, especially in an age of equality. It just doesn’t make sense.”
Mr O’Callaghan defended his right to free speech. “Nobody has the guts to say this publicly,” he said.
“If I’m lucky enough to be elected I’ll be saying all the things that a lot of people are thinking but are too afraid to say. The drift into PC land has been incredible. It’s gone too far.”
Dr Farghal Radwan, who developed the Cork Islamic Information Centre in Shandon, condemned the election candidate’s comments. “My question to this man is, ‘how many people have you seen wearing a burka in Cork?’
“I have been in Cork for a very long time and members of the Muslim community living here don’t wear burkas. When someone comes out with a statement like this it’s Islamaphobia and only for political gain,” he said.
“The only people you see wearing burkas are visiting from places like Saudi Arabia where they are purely traditional.”
Dr Radwan said visitors to the country should not be discriminated against for wearing niqabs and hijabs. “All this kind of politician is doing is creating hate against Islams.”
He described the Muslim community as a peaceful one. “Anyone saying these things is trying to create a degree of Islamophobia. Why doesn’t he want to talk about local issues in the community? Why isn’t he discussing homelessness? Members of the Muslim community are out there feeding the homeless every weekend.”