Condemning the ban imposed on ‘burqa’ in France, Muslim leaders and clerics today said the “undemocratic” move violates basic human rights and appealed to the government to raise the issue with the European nation.

“The veil is an integral part of our religion. Banning it is against the freedom of religion.... The French government’s move is undemocratic and against secularism,” said a statement issued by prominent Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband.

The joint statement was signed by Darul Uloom’s acting Vice Chancellor Maulana Abul Kasmi Banarsi and Deputy Vice Chancellor Abdul Khalique Madrasi.

The clerics also appealed to the government to raise the issue with the French government and press it to withdraw the ban.

France on April 11 became the first country in Europe to implement a ban on the wearing of full-face coverings, including the Islamic ‘niqab’. ‘Niqab’ or ‘burqa’ is full face covering, whereas veil is the traditional head covering.

Maulana Abdul Hameed Noamani, an Islamic scholar and a senior member of Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind, said, “The ban is against basic human rights. Only a very small minority wear burqa... there was no need for such legislation. “Everyone should be allowed to follow their religious values,” he said.

Maulana Afroz Mujtaba, a senior cleric, said, “The ban on burqa was uncalled for. Everyone has a right to wear a cloth of his or her choice. Why such discrimination against minorities in Europe.”

Muslims with a population of 175 millions are the largest minority community in India. In 2009, a Muslim girl was not allowed by her college in Karnataka to attend classes wearing a burqa. The college and the girl later reached a compromise.

“In a democratic and secular set up, people have every right to practice the religion of their choice. Such a move (ban on burqa) will only strengthen extremist group in their propaganda against Western countries,” said Maulana Asghar Abbas, a Delhi-based cleric.

“The European countries should avoid steps which could help the radical groups,” he added.

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