© Provided by Independent Print Limited
A man’s fight to “ban the burqa” by donning the garment himself has backfired after he was questioned by the police under suspicion of a public order offence.
Thomas Dunn was spotted walking into a Debenhams in Exeter city centre and putting on a woman’s niqab – a face covering where, unlike a burqa, you can still see the eyes – and was then heard imitating Muslim prayer.
He then left the department store and walked into the high street at around 2:30pm when he was stopped by local police.
He claims he was then questioned under the Terrorism Act, but a police spokesman told The Independent he had instead been spoken to regarding a minor public order offence after the shop reported concerns he may be a shoplifter.
Video: Germany approves partial burqa ban (Euronews)
He was not arrested and allowed to leave without charge.
The 57-year-old told DevonLive he had dressed in what he called a burqa on a few other occasions as part of his one-man campaign to ban the wearing of the Islamic dress in the UK.
He said: “I have always been a little intimidated by people wearing burqas and since all the terrorist attacks I think the Government should ban anyone from covering their faces as on CCTV it won’t pick up who they are.
“If you see someone wearing a burqa you immediately think terrorist. It should be stopped. I have nothing against Muslim people and I’m not racist in any way, but I don’t agree with people covering their faces.”
Slideshow: Inside the Islamic State tunnel network (Reuters)
Inside the Islamic State tunnel network
He said he chose to target Debenhams that weekend because they had recently announced they would begin selling traditional Islamic clothing.
“When you change into a burqa you really can see that the way people look at you changes. You see that initial fear in their eyes,” he added.
Mr Dunn, a gas engineer, said he knew his actions may distress people but he felt he needed to “raise awareness of his campaign”.
He is not the first person to come unstuck when proposing a ban on the full-face veil.
In April, former Ukip leader Paul Nuttall introduced a plan to ban all face coverings in public as part of its election manifesto but insisted it was not racist as it all applied to all.
But the proposal was laughed down almost immediately when people pointed out this would include balaclavas and beekeeper outfits.
Despite this, a YouGov poll commissioned for The Times at the time found that almost 48 per cent of people would support a law banning wearing a full-face veil compared with 42 per cent who said people should be able to wear what they want.