Saturday, October 07, 2006

Straw and the Veil

There is a lot of bluster over Jack Straw's comments on the veil. The claim that this is discrimination is ridiculous: Straw has not disadvantaged anyone for wearing a veil and there is no suggestion he has ever been aggresive in his requests for them to be removed. Equally, the idea that this debate, about whether stopping wearing the veil would be a good move on the part of Muslim women to aid cohesion, can aid the far right doesn't stand up. The far right need integration to be a hopeless cause to justify their desire to keep ethnic groups separate and this is not helped by suggestions of methods by which integration can be advanced.

A simple survey could establish whether Jack Straw is right. Do a survey of non-Muslims and ask if they would feel significantly less comfortable talking to someone wearing a veil. I am almost certain that you would find a massive result in favour of it making them feel less comfortable. We rely on cues in people's facial expression to feel confident that they have understood us. That is why trying to be witty over e-mail is such a risky strategy. Hurting the ability of non-Muslims and Muslims to have a comfortable conversation hurts the everyday interactions which keep a lid on communal distrust. Such distrust plays into the hands of the unpleasant in both Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

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