Friday, October 06, 2006

Jack Straw’s veiled threat

What is it about these New Labourites? They just can’t stop themselves from demonising the Muslim community. They are on a kind of crusade. One day it’s Ruth Kelly, a leading member of the reactionary Opus Dei sect, who warns against multiculturalism. Then it’s John Reid, who arrogantly tells Muslim parents to look out for suicide-bomber tendencies amongst their children. Now it’s born-again Christian Jack Straw with his call for Muslim women to stop wearing the veil in order to foster "community cohesiveness" and so that he can gauge their reactions when they come to his constituency offices with a problem.

All this is music to the ears of racists and nationalists throughout Britain. Far from encouraging communities to live harmoniously alongside each other, these statements only reinforce prejudice and add to any existing divisions. Don’t be surprised if a Muslim woman wearing a veil is attacked on the streets in the next few days following Straw’s reactionary comments.

You have to defend people’s right to dress how they want to in line with their customs and traditions, whether you like them or not. After all, Straw has a right to wear those awful pin-striped suits. While we’re on the subject of faces and veils, it should be noted that politicians like Straw are trained to keep a straight face when what they are telling us is the opposite of the truth. Who can forget Straw’s double-act with Colin Powell at the United Nations in 2003 when the former US secretary of state "revealed" the entirely fictitious story about Iraq’s secret uranium supply from Niger? Straw is playing to the gallery again and the people of Blackburn would do well to get rid of him as their MP as soon as possible.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

1 comment:

Fiona said...

I disagree with this. I think Jack Straw can be excused for asking Muslim women to remove their niqabs, if he has already done so I don't know and he cannot be blamed if there are any attacks on women as a result. The women themselves are perfectly entitled to refuse if they feel uncomfortable with the request. The full veiling of women, especially where face covering is involved, is fundamentally repressive and not at all an Islamic requirement, although it is increasingly seen as such. We have heard so far from those women who have adopted the full veil voluntarily, we've heard nothing, and are unlikely to, from women who have had it imposed upon them. Muslim women from all over the Arabic Islamic world and Iran and Afghanistan, are struggling to free themselves from the bonds of their repressive and backward religious cultures, I think it behoves men and women of liberal views to assist in that struggle and not set it back as is actually happening and it similarly behoves Muslim women here to stand with their sisters in countries where customs and attitudes towards women and girls remain feudal. After all the niqab is not a requirement in Pakistan or Bangladesh, both countries where Islamic laws are otherwise applied, often very harshly. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in today's Independent newspaper (9/10) writes that she finds the niqab and even the hijab "offensive." She sees veiling of the female form as a form of objectification and a dysfunctional view of sexuality. It is time she says to "face down the Islamicists." Finally, will the young women of today who are increasingly adopting the chador and niqab, often to the dismay of their parents, when they have daughters of their own leave them to make up their own minds on the matter, or disallow them the privilege? Presumably many won't interfere with their daughters' choices but presumably also some will see it as the religious requirement they themselves freely decided upon. Jack Straw by the way can wear T-shirts and jeans if he so wishes and I think his suits are beautifully cut as a matter of fact! Othewise I entirely agree with your view of him and New Labour in general.