CLAIMS by a Gwent MP that the Islamic tradition requiring women to wear face and head coverings is “an excuse for sexual violence against women” have been branded “ridiculous” by a faith leader.

Speaking during a Parliamentary debate on violence against women and girls on Wednesday, April 27, Monmouth MP David Davies said the wearing of a burka and niqab – or face covering – sent out the message that women are “property” of their husbands or male relatives.

The Conservative MP added he was concerned the practice also offered men an “excuse” to sexually attack uncovered women.

“The message has to go out to all men in all communities that they have absolutely no right to attack women under any circumstances whatsoever,” he said.

“The veil gets in the way of that.

“In effect, it has become an excuse for sexual violence against women of the sort we saw in Cologne and other European cities on New Year’s Eve.”

During New Year's Eve celebrations at the end of 2015 hundreds of sexual assaults, thefts and at least five rapes were committed in Germany, mainly in the centre of Cologne. Many of the victims reported their attackers were of north African or Middle Eastern descent.

Although he stopped short of calling for a ban on the veil, Mr Davies said the reasons for wearing it should not go unchallenged.

But his claims have been branded “ridiculous” by secretary of the Islamic Society for Wales Mubarak Ali.

“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” he said.

“It’s just something that women wear respectively.

“Nuns wear head scarves – does he think they are sexually exploited?

“What about the Virgin Mary – she is pictured wearing a head scarf.”

Mr Davies also said he was concerned Sharia law – which is set out in the Quran as well as by the Prophet Muhammad and other Islamic sources – was being practiced in the UK. Some have said the law is unfairly strict towards women.

“Sharia law in some ways advocates violence against women and allows beating,” he said.

“I do not suggest this is going on in the Sharia courts we have at the moment, but unless the people running them are willing to reject that notion absolutely, I am extremely worried about allowing Sharia courts to make any judgements in the UK."

But Mr Ali said Muslims living in Britain abided by UK law.

“Sharia courts are used in a very, very few isolated cases, a dowry for example, but otherwise we follow the British law fully,” he said.

Mr Davies said he understood those who shared his concerns may fear being branded racist, but encouraged them to speak out.

“I recently met with some women of Islamic heritage, including human rights activist Maryam Namazie, who said one of the problems is that it is racist not to raise these issues,” he said.

“If politicians aren’t willing to bring this subject to the forefront, then it is going to be much harder for women to do so.”