Labour leaders tackle faith issues in Norwich
By Keith Morris
2010: Matters of religious faith were on the agenda when the Labour leadership contest rolled into Norwich
on Sunday morning (September 5) courtesy of a 90-minute Sky News
televised debate with all five candidates, broadcast live from the Open Youth Venue
in the city centre.
In front of an audience of Labour party members, young people and members of the public, Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, David Miliband, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott addressed a wide range of issues in a debate hosted by Sky News political editor Adam Boulter.
As well as addressing issues such as immigration, housing, education and the future direction of the party, all candidates backed freedom of religious expression while answering a question about the banning of the Muslim burkha veil.
Diane Abbott and Ed Miliband both said no to banning religious symbols, saying it is a matter of religious freedom and civil liberties.
Ed Balls said: “Being British is about being tolerant and respecting each other and whether people are Roman Catholic or Muslim or Jewish, they have different traditions, they have different ways of doing things, the same in the Church of England as well and we are a country that respects difference so absolutely not."
David Miliband went further, saying: “It’s not good enough to say anyone can just do as they like, we’ve got to become a more united country and whether it is through schooling, through employment, through the community, we have got to bring people together across the lines of race and religion. Of course we should be saying if you want to wear a burkha or a cross or a turban or a yarmulke, that is your right but we have got to strengthen the forces of integration in our society.
Former health secretary, and now shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, said: “Of course people should be free to wear the burkha but people should also be free to wear a cross at work if that is their choice and I was appalled when it was said somebody shouldn’t wear a cross at work, that shouldn’t happen either."