Muslim Woman Heart
Muslim Woman with a full-face scarfReuters/Morteza Nikoubazl

A former interior minister in the cabinet of UK Prime Minister David Cameron stirred up another controversy regarding Islamic scarves on Sunday, when he advised the government to ban Muslim women from wearing a veil in British courts while giving a statement.

Ken Clarke, a minister who used to work as a criminal barrister, said that he found the traditional female Islamic dress 'a most peculiar costume for people to adopt in the 21st century'.

"I think we do need a clear rule. I don't think a witness should be allowed to give evidence from behind a veil," Clarke said during an interview with BBC radio.

In comments which are likely to stir up another emotive debate, Clarke added: "I can't see how on earth a judge and a jury can really appraise evidence when you're facing someone who is cloaked and is completely invisible to you. It's almost impossible to have a proper trial if one of the persons is in a kind of bag."

In September, a ruling had sparked a debate about whether UK should follow other European countries and ban veils in schools and public places after Judge Peter Murphy said that a Muslim woman could not give evidence at her trial wearing hijab or full-face veil.

The debate on Islamic scarves has been most rife in France where it is also known as 'the veil affair'. In 2010, France passed a law under the Nicolas Sarkozy government to ban Muslim women from wearing of full-face covering, including but not limited to burqas and niqābs, in public.

Moreover, the British judge expressed that he hoped the UK Parliament or a higher court would provide a definitive verdict 'sooner rather than later'.

Clarke justified his statement saying it was vital for jurors to be able to observe a person's body language and facial expression to determine whether they were telling the truth.

"I actually think it undermines a trial and that's not based on any trace of islamophobia," the minister added.