Jack Straw, the former British Foreign Secretary for the Labour government, has opened a line of debate that has been steadily gaining supporters and detractors this month. The MP stated at a conference that the veil was a “visible statement of separation and of difference”, and he urged Muslim women to get rid of it. He went on to explain that the veils were an impediment to communication, and if Britain was ever to become a truly coherent nation Muslims should learn to live without their traditional attire.
The statement has understandably caused an outcry in Muslim communities throughout Britain as more and more government officials are stepping forward to voice their negative views on the veil. Schools are joining in as well, with one Catholic school officially complaining about a Muslim teacher who wears her burka while in class. School representatives say that the veil makes it difficult for students to communicate with her and fully understand the lessons, a view that the teacher fervently denies. People all over the country are outraged and fundamentally polarised on the issue.
Muslims and sympathisers are saying that the veil has absolutely nothing to do with the problems faced by multi-cultural Britain today, and that Straw’s comment has simply led the way for racist viewpoints to come through unfiltered. Other groups wonder why Muslim women can’t just conform to Western dress and lose their ‘barrier’. Many people do not understand that may of the Muslims in question are actually British born, and therefore do not fit into the generalised ‘foreigner’ heading.
Tony Blair has given his support to Jack Straw and maintains that the issue is purely communicative. Amidst all the debate in the so called secular world, religious leaders are left wondering why no one has bothered to consult them as tensions rage ever higher and citizens begin to fear rioting.