According to The Telegraph, he said that the fundamental principle of freedom of belief and of the right to manifest one's own belief must continue to be upheld in a free society, whether for Christians, Muslims or anyone else, but as far as wearing burka is concerned there are, first of all, questions of safety.
"Naturally, it would be quite inappropriate for the Burka to be worn whilst driving or operating certain kinds of machinery. It is dangerous even whilst crossing the street!" Michael Nazir-Ali said.
The paper stated him as saying that the fundamental principle of freedom of belief does not exist in isolation and has to be balanced against other considerations of the common good and of public order.
"There have also been many cases in different parts of the world where terrorists and other criminals have made a getaway by disguising themselves with a burka. For reasons of security then, where identity has to be established, the wearing of the burka cannot be permitted," he added.
He cited the example of Stephen Timms, the former Labour minister, who was recently stabbed by a woman in a burka, and stated that there should be considered especially where a high degree of social interaction is required.
"There is also the issue of consent, in a free society we must make sure that no one is forced to wear a form of covering that surely limits freedom of movement and social interaction," the paper quoted the former Bishop, as saying.
Citing the example of the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, the late Dr Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, who provocatively made female students remove the face-veil in the classroom, Micheal said that this was a brave thing to do at the premier place of Sunni Muslim learning.
The Telegraph quoted him saying that he is not in favour of an outright ban as women should be free to wear it in domestic contexts, but they should make sure that this does not compromise on public or personal safety, endangering national security or impeding professional or social interaction. (ANI)