UK Foreign Office faces backlash after giving out headscarves during World Hijab Day event.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

An internal email to staff said the headscarves symolised 'liberation, respect and security'.

The Foreign Office (FCO) is facing a backlash after inviting staff to wear Islamic headscarves for the day in an event to mark World Hijab Day. Officials claimed the headscarves symbolised "liberation, respect and security".

The walk-in event, during which taxpayer-funded headscarves were given away, was criticised as being supportive of the "institutional oppression of women".

The event took place as women in Iran burned their headscarves in protest to ultra-conservative laws that forces them to wear them or face punishment.

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Maajid Nawaz, who leads the counter-extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, criticised the FCO for "supporting World Hijab Day and the institutional oppression of women through modesty culture, while brave Iranian women risk all to remove the hijab tyranny".

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen also slammed the department. "I'd like to know whose bright idea this was. It is ridiculous, a complete waste of taxpayers' money and not the business of a Government department.

"I can't see the Foreign Office promoting Christianity or the handing out of crosses."

The event took place on 1 February inside the department's headquarters at Whitehall an internal email to Foreign Office staff revealed.

It said: "Would you like to try on a hijab or learn why Muslim women wear the headscarf? Come along to our walk-in event. Free scarves for all those that choose to wear it for the day or part of the day.

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Nicole Rojas