Niqab: The Muslim face veil

A controversial Irish Islamic leader says female Muslims should wear the veil in Ireland as a sign of religious freedom.

Ali Selim, Secretary-General of the Irish Council of Imams, says Europe should respect the rights of Muslim women to wear that they want.

And he pointed to Ireland as a positive role model in the row over the niqab or face veil.

“While there is no problem with the niqab in Ireland, it is something which is being debated in many places right now.”

Selim attracted controversy in 2006 in an interview with Ireland's Hot Press when he denied that the London bombings on July 7 2005 were carried out by Muslims.

"Events that happened in England - I personally haven't seen compelling proof that that was done by Muslims." Hot Press: "But the 7/7 bombers were Muslims." "In my understanding, I haven't seen proof that those who did that were Muslims."

Selim's call for the Muslim veil as a symbol of religious freedom comes as several European countries are in the midst of a fierce debate over banning the Muslim veil.

France has recommended banning the niqab in hospitals, schools, public transport and government offices.

Italy is currently considering a move to ban the veil while similar debates are brewing in Denmark and Germany.

Islam is thought to be Europe's fastest growing religion and there are already some 50,000 Muslims in Ireland.