Blair distances No 10 from attack on veils
THE controversy over Jack Straw's call to Muslim women to discard their veils intensified yesterday after Tony Blair distanced himself from his Cabinet minister's remarks.
The Leader of the Commons was at the centre of a row after admitting that he asked Muslim constituents to remove their veil during meetings because he felt "uncomfortable" at not being able to see their faces.
Mr Straw, a former foreign secretary, yesterday stood by his criticism of the veil as a symbol of "separation" between Islam and British society, and confirmed he would like the veil to be discarded altogether.
Amid criticism from opposition politicians and the Muslim community, the Prime Minister made clear that Mr Straw had been expressing his own, rather than the government's, view.
A spokeswoman for Mr Blair said it was right that people should be allowed to express their opinions, and she added: "Because people are expressing their views and this is an issue of debate does not make it government policy."
Senior Muslim figures expressed dismay at Mr Straw's comments, with one claiming he had been making a populist remark to try to win the deputy leadership of the Labour Party. Sir Iqbal Sacranie, a former secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said he was concerned about the timing of the remarks.
He said: "Jack Straw has mentioned this before, but for him to come out in public at the moment is a concern because it is somehow open season for attacks on Islam."
But Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, the leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, said Muslims were overreacting. He said Mr Straw had made the comments to bolster his bid for the deputy leadership.
"It is an irrational and insane reaction from Muslims," he said. "The politicians are all trying to outdo each other and appease voters, saying they are further to the right. The Muslims overreacting are unable to see these games, they get outraged and this just gives oxygen to the MPs."
Opposition parties joined the row, with Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, calling on Mr Blair to justify Mr Straw's remarks. He said: "We should not be trying to suppress diversity."
• A Muslim woman was left "extremely shocked and upset" after a man snatched her head veil as she waited at a bus stop yesterday in Liverpool.
The 49-year-old victim was subjected to racial abuse before the offender pulled her veil off.
Merseyside Police are treating the incident as a "hate crime".
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 4 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North east