Kettering MP is criticised for his comments - COMMENT ON THIS STORY

A county MP has stood by his controversial comment that wearing the burka in public was the religious equivalent of "going round with a paper bag over your head".

Kettering MP Philip Hollobone raised the issue during a debate in Parliament yesterday.

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He said he had "huge sympathy" with those who want action against those

who want to cover themselves up in public.

Mr Hollobone's comments follow a poll in a national newspaper which

found a third of Britons want to see an outright ban on the wearing of burkas in public, and two thirds believe wearing it should be illegal in places such as banks and airports.

Asked if he stood by the comments, Mr Hollobone said: "Absolutely. The burka is the most ridiculous form of dress you could make up. It is offensive to women. People who wear it are effectively saying they

want to be cut off from other people.

"If you can't see the face of the person you are speaking to you find it

hard to have a normal human dialogue. They can't communicate properly

with anyone else and we can't communicate properly with them."

Suhel Dudha, secretary of Kettering Muslim Association, said: "Mr Hollobone is entitled to his opinion but it's more than a little shortsighted. MPs are not in a position to be taking moral leads on things.

"Many of the people in the House of Commons don't look like an average person on the street. The burka is ritual and ceremonial and Westminster is full of ritual and ceremonial activities.

"Only a handful of people wear a burka in Kettering but there are probably 100 times as many people living below the poverty line. Perhaps

Mr Hollobone should be using his valuable time addressing that rather

than involving himself in the crude end of the immigration debate."

In a previous debate, Mr Hollobone said immigration "is the most important issue" for Kettering constituents.