Clarkson dresses in his niqab Clarkson & Hammond don niqabs for a brief period of the episode

Top Gear has come under fire from a small section of its viewership following scenes broadcast in its opening episode of Season 16 – reviewed here on our website – where co-hosts Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond dress up in burqas.

The pair decided to dress in niqabs – a derivative of the burqa where everything except the eyes is covered – in order to avoid being recognised while they travelled through Syria, where the show is apparently very popular.

Earlier scenes from the episode showed Clarkson, Hammond and James May being mobbed by enthusiastic Syrians while in the nation’s capital, Damascus.

The premise of the episode was to re-enact the journey of the Three Wise Men, with the trio travelling from Iraq to Israel – via Turkey, Syria and Jordan – in two-seater sports cars.

Israel’s latest efforts in international relationships mean that incoming visitors will be barred from entering the country if they have come from Syria, and the show expressed concern that their being recognised in Syria might feed back to the Israeli border patrol.

However, some Muslim viewers have taken issue with the burka stunt, claiming that the show was mocking their religion.

The Daily Mail quotes controversial Islamic activist Anjem Choudary, who said: "The burka is a symbol of our religion and people should not make jokes about it in any way.”

He added: “It would have been equally bad even if they’d not been in a country mainly populated by Muslims.”

While perhaps not in the best of taste, the entire issue smacks of political correctness gone mad.

I will point out that Clarkson was also critical in his narrative about Israel, referring to it (with no small amount of irony) as a peaceful country while simultaneously there was footage of the high wall it has built around the West Bank to segregate the Palestinians.

If anything, Clarkson happened to be quite complimentary about the Middle East, and indicated his positive impression of Iraq, Syria and Jordan and their peoples.

The BBC has replied by stating it has not yet conducted an assessment of viewer feedback – it is believed some 6 million tuned in to watch the Boxing Day episode – and no further comment has been made.

[Images via the BBC]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.