Timur Seifullen, the leader of Estonian Multicultural Association and an ethnic Tatar by background, told ERR Radio that banning burqa would be reasonable as there is no ground for Estonian residents covering their faces.
Seifullen said that first of all, the Quran does not instruct Muslim women to wear burqa, nor does the local living environment provide any basis for this.
He said that although the Quran calls for women to cover their hair and be modest, wearing a burqa is a custom only in certain Islamic cultures and countries, and it has nothing to do with religious right.
Seifullen said that burqa wearing may well be pre-Islamic, comparing the custom with Estonians celebrating “Jaaniõhtu” on the eve of the Summer Solstice, coinciding with St. John's Eve, long time before actually embracing Christianity.
“I'm not quite sure why it has become a traditon in some countries, but it's more likely to do with historical and ancient habit of protecting woman's face from the sun or tribal rule that was set by local community leaders,” he explained, emhasising that the Quran does not command to do so.
He cited Afghanistan as a prime example where wearing burqas is a tradition which goes back a long time due to climate, rather than religion.
Seifullen said that banning burqas is reasonable because it is important to identify people. "Why would someone cover their face without a reason?“ he asked rhetorically, pointing out that there is no justification to wear burqa in Estonia's living environment.
The Estonian Tatars were the first Muslims in Estonia. They first settled in Estonia in 1721 when they were released from the military service in the Russian Army after Estonia and Livonia had been conquered by the Russian Empire. About 2,000 Tatars remain, most of whom are Muslims.
Last week, Social Protection Minister Margus Tsahkna asked Urmas Reinsalu, the justice minister, to analyze possible problems from the inflow of asylum seekers. The majority of asylum seekers coming to Estonia will be from predominately Muslim nations and there is a chance some immigrants will want to observe strict religious rules, including clothing. Tsahkna, therefore, proposed banning clothes which cover the face, such as burqas. “We have become accustomed to be able to identify people in public spaces,” Tsahkna said.
The head imam of the Estonian Muslim community, Ildar Muhamedšin, voiced his opposition to the proposal and said that the initiative is a serious violation of Estonia's constitution and went as far as to call it a "blasphemy".
A burqa is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions, but not all, to cover their bodies when in public.
Editor: S. Tambur