Diane Dodds has often raised issues of religious freedom during her time in Brussels and the DUP MEP said that she was particularly concerned by the brutal persecution of Christians in parts of northern Nigeria.
However, when asked about France’s controversial 2011 ban on face coverings, which makes it illegal for Muslim women to cover their faces in public, Mrs Dodds said that it would be inappropriate for her to “meddle” in the affairs of another country.
Mrs Dodds said: “I have brought those people who have been so persecuted and maligned in northern Nigeria to the European Parliament and allowed them to have their say in front of members and the commission and so on,” something she described as a “privilege”.
When asked for her view on France’s ban on public face coverings, something which has outlawed the wearing of the niqab and the burka, Mrs Dodds said: “They had very specific issues, and in campaigning for freedom of religious expression, I don’t intend to meddle in the decisions of a member state — the European Union does that far, far too much.
“What I’m talking about are the broad issues — the fact that when we brought those folk from Nigeria to the European Parliament one man stood up in his beautiful Nigerian traditional dress, speaking beautiful English and he told the story of what happened to him.
“He lived in a small village in Northern Nigeria and one night Boko Haram terrorists came to his village; they brought him out of his home and in front of his wife and family said to him: if you renounce your Christian faith, we will spare your life. He said very clearly... ‘No, I am prepared to die a Christian’ and they shot him [in the head] and his face was very disfigured because of it. They did that because he would bleed to death; it would be the slowest death possible.”
Mrs Dodds said that he was the only male Christian father in his village to have survived the atrocity.
She added: “That’s the campaign of persecution which I want to highlight in the European Parliament...that’s the important issues, not meddling in the decisions of member states.”