There has been a very mixed response to Jack Straw’s comments about the veil wore by Muslim women. Oliver Letwin said it would be dangerous to tell people how to dress, other conservatives took different angles on the debate.
"To most non-Muslims and some Muslims, veiled faces
are an icon of societies in which Muslims are legally and socially
privileged above citizens of other religions. They are thus an obstacle
to integration, and in that sense I agree with Jack Straw. We live
under the Crown, not a Caliphate, and under common law, not sharia law."
Today’s Telegraph leader looks at why the comments were apparently so controversial:
"Mr Straw has touched a raw nerve because he has not talked in the
abstract but has focused on one of the most emblematic symbols of
Muslim life. Self-appointed representatives of the Muslim community say
he has no right to discuss the issue. As an elected member of the
Government, he has every right – unlike most of them, who have been
elected to nothing."
The most common misquote on this is that Straw called for a ban of the veil, he didn’t – he was starting a debate on the matter, and that’s what we’re having (see yesterday’s YourPlatform article by Imtiaz Ameen). As today’s Times leader notes:
"These are not questions that will disappear if public figures or
private citizens decide that it would be “causing trouble” to intrude
And Martin Kettle in today’s Guardian:
"since there is so clearly an issue, it is surely desirable to discuss it in public and not keep it, er, veiled."
That is the difference between a free society and theocracies like Saudi Arabia, after all.