2006 October 06 Friday
Jack Straw Asks All Muslim Women In Britain To Unveil

Former British Foreign Secretary and Member of Parliament for Blackburn Jack Straw asks all Muslim women who meet with him to remove their veils.

All this was about a year ago. It was not the first time I had conducted an interview with someone in a full veil, but this particular encounter, though very polite and respectful on both sides, got me thinking. In part, this was because of the apparent incongruity between the signals which indicate common bonds - the entirely English accent, the couple's education (wholly in the UK) - and the fact of the veil. Above all, it was because I felt uncomfortable about talking to someone "face-to-face" who I could not see.

So I decided that I wouldn't just sit there the next time a lady turned up to see me in a full veil, and I haven't.

Now, I always ensure that a female member of my staff is with me. I explain that this is a country built on freedoms. I defend absolutely the right of any woman to wear a headscarf. As for the full veil, wearing it breaks no laws.

I go on to say that I think, however, that the conversation would be of greater value if the lady took the covering from her face. Indeed, the value of a meeting, as opposed to a letter or phone call, is so that you can - almost literally - see what the other person means, and not just hear what they say. So many of the judgments we all make about other people come from seeing their faces.

I thought it may be hard going when I made my request for face-to-face interviews in these circumstances. However, I can't recall a single occasion when the lady concerned refused to lift her veil; and most I ask seem relieved I have done so.

Straw's essay and subsequent statements (see below) shows just how much further along the British and Europeans have moved in their thinking about Muslim immigrants as compared to political elites in America. America's political elites are still stuck inside the narrow intellectual confines of the bundle of lies which the Left has built for them.

Some Muslims are predictably unhappy about Straw's position.

Shaykh Ibrahim, who trained as an imam, said: "I have a beard and I wear a traditional long shirt. Sometimes I wear a turban and a hat. Am I going to be his next subject of concern?" He said he welcomed a debate but Muslims "would want ownership of the outcome of that debate".

Dr Reefat Drabu, the chairman of the social and family affairs committee of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, said: "If Mr Straw thinks this is going to break down barriers, it isn't. If anything, it is going to alienate Muslim women and be a catalyst for more of them to wear the veil and prove a point."

She added: "If you are trying to build bridges, you need to listen to what Muslims are saying. The problems that alienate women are to do with foreign policy and no one seems to take any notice of that. This country is supposed to celebrate diversity. That is the wonderful thing about this country: that it accepts, that it is tolerant. Women who wear the veil are making the statement that they are separate from society and that is why they wear it."

I do listen very carefully to what Muslims are saying. As a result I've come to the conclusion that Islam is not compatible with Western society and we should provide economic incentives to get Muslims to leave. I find Pope Benedict's view that Islam is incompatible with Western societies to be spot on.

Straw wants the Muslim women to totally discard the veils.

Jack Straw has inflamed the controversy over Muslim women wearing veils by saying that he would prefer them to stop wearing the garments altogether. The former Foreign Secretary provoked widespread anger, both among Muslim groups and in his Blackburn constituency, when he disclosed that he asked female constituents to uncover their faces in meetings.

Undaunted by a wave of criticism, including condemnation from the one of the Church of England's most senior bishops, Mr Straw waded further into the row yesterday. Asked if he would rather the veils be discarded completely, he said: "Yes. It needs to be made clear I am not talking about being prescriptive but with all the caveats, yes, I would rather."

The Leader of the Commons told Radio 4's Today programme: "You cannot force people where they live, that's a matter of choice and economics, but you can be concerned about the implications of separateness."

Physical proximity does not prevent the construction of parallel separated societies. High levels of immigration enable the development of greater separation and prevents assimilation. TO get a sense of just how deep this problem runs in Britain see my post Over Half Of Pakistanis In Britain Married To First Cousins.

Getting them to unveil won't solve the problem. Islam is not compatible with Western societies. Wrap your minds around that. Islam is the problem.

Update: Straw sees the ability to read facial expressions as important in understanding human communications.

Mr Straw explained the impact he thought veils could have in a society where watching facial expressions was important for contact between different people.

"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," he said.

"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."

He is right of course. Facial expressions provide a wealth of information about what people really mean. Misunderstandings and distrust will rise to the extent that people become less able to read each others' facial expressions.

Update II: Straw is not getting shouted down by his own party.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said yesterday that opposition to the veil was not government policy, but that Tony Blair “believes it is right that people should be able to have a discussion and express their personal views on issues such as this”.


But some Muslim representatives were more sympathetic, and there was support from other sources. Daud Abdullah, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “This [veil] does cause some discomfort to non-Muslims. One can understand this.”

The Labour peer Baroness Uddin told GMTV yesterday that there was a need for debate, declaring: “It is about human rights on both sides — Jack’s right to say and the women’s right to wear what they please.” The Right Rev Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, said: “I can understand why he has said it.”

The enforcers of political correctness would probably attack an American politician who made similar comments.

Writing for the left-leaning Guardian Martin Kettle sees the veil as a form of rejection of the larger culture.

There is, of course, a wider issue here. Straw himself refers directly to it in his article. The veil is an explicit statement of separation and distance, as he puts it. It literally comes between its wearer and other people. It is impossible not to see it as a barrier dividing the individual inside from the world outside. Whether the veil is also a form of self-protection or separatism is harder to say. Not all cases will be the same. Many of us fear the latter, perhaps wrongly, although in the hoodie era it is hardly the only form of dress in modern Britain that can be read that way.

But the veil is a much more loaded statement than even a hoodie, and it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise. It is not merely a badge of religious or cultural identity like a turban, a yarmulke or even a baseball cap. It says something not just about the wearer but about the non-wearer too. It says, or seems to say, I do not wish to engage with you. It is at some level a rejection. And since that statement of rejection comes from within Islamic cultures, some of whose willingness to integrate is explicitly at issue in more serious ways, it is hardly surprising that it should be challenged.

Muslims do not want to integrate because they see Muslims as above non-Muslims and they see the proper order of society as one where Muslims rule over non-Muslims.

Muslim immigration has turned UK National Health Service hospitals into places of harassment of UK soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.

A paratrooper wounded in Afghanistan was threatened by a Muslim visitor to the British hospital where he is recovering.

Seriously wounded soldiers have complained that they are worried about their safety after being left on wards that are open to the public at Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham.


Soldiers on operations say they would rather receive a more serious injury and go to the top American military hospital in Ramstein, Germany, than end up in a NHS hospital.

They now half jokingly refer to getting "a Boche rather than a Blighty" in reference to the wounds that would send them home. Ramstein has an outstanding unit for brain surgery, and neurological intensive care beds in Britain are in short supply. "The blokes see it that if you are unlucky you get wounded and go to the UK at the mercy of the NHS, but if you get a head wound you get sent to Ramstein in Germany where the US has an outstanding medical facility," said an officer serving in Afghanistan.

The British Muslims see fellow Muslims in Afghanistan as part of their group and fellow British citizens as not part of their group.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 October 06 11:03 PM  Immigration Culture Clash

John S Bolton said at October 7, 2006 2:50 AM:

Another incompatibility is that a good moslem cannot be a citizen of the US or the UK, or any country which does not establish Islam, as the state religion to the point of persecuting others.
Citizenship being at least a military relation, and one such as to command the loyalty of every citizen over against the foreigner who attacks within our borders, and the moslem being obliged to be loyal to his coreligionist who attacks here; it follows that the moslem cannot be a citizen here.
The government pretends that he can, but not righteously, not honestly.

Vigilante said at October 7, 2006 7:43 AM:

Is there a difference between hijabs on one hand and chadors, niqab or burqas on the otherhand? Or is it just a difference without significance?

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