A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Friday, October 06, 2006

Veiled threats?

Jack Straw, former British Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary, is in hot water with some Muslim community leaders for asking (yes, he asks, not demands!) Muslim women visitors to his political constituency surgeries to remove their veils. Mr Straw explained the impact he thought veils could have in a society where watching facial expressions was important for contact between different people. He said, "Communities are bound together partly by informal chance relations between strangers - people being able to acknowledge each other in the street or being able pass the time of day. That's made more difficult if people are wearing a veil. That's just a fact of life. I understand the concerns but I hope, however, there can be a mature debate about this. I come to this out of a profound commitment to equal rights for Muslim communities and an equal concern about adverse development about parallel communities."

I say hear, hear to Jack Straw on this. I have been extremely critical of him over the Iraq war, but on this he is correct. By no stretch of the imagination is he trying to be offensive. It is only a tiny, but growing, minority of Muslim women who do this. Those that have spoken up seem to be very aggressive in their tones regarding other people's disquiet. Frankly, it is unnerving to have a masked person speaking to you. There can be no proper discourse.

In an islamic country where this is the custom, then OK. But whatever happened to "when in Rome"? In a country like Britain it is definitely a devisive move. As someone said today, there are Muslims who are happy to integrate whilst keeping to their faith, and then there are those who desire separation. Who is shunning who?

And finally! What about those banks and other places who demand that motorcyclists remove crash helmets (for security reasons, of course!). Are they going to be consistent and ask these dear ladies the same question?


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