Socialist Worker

Jack Straw's veil comments threaten to inflame racism

Issue No. 2021

The racist onslaught on Muslims hit new and appalling levels this week.

Politicians from all the major parties have declared open season for all who want to blame Muslims for the problems in Britain and to blame the victims of racism for the racism in society.

It seems as though Labour ministers want to break down the unity ordinary people forged in the anti-war movement bit by bit, and wont be happy until they prove the problem lies not with their atrocities but with Muslims.

Tory leader David Cameron used his main speech to the Conservative conference to make a call to “ban Muslim ghettos”, as the Daily Mail put it.

Then former foreign secretary Jack Straw said he had begun asking Muslim women to take it off when they come to see him in his constituency surgery in Blackburn.

Straw added that the full veil was 'such a visible statement of separation and of difference' that it was 'bound to make better, positive relations between the two communities more difficult'.

In fact his disgraceful comments threaten to produce the deep ethnic divisions he says he opposes.

This is not simply some academic discussion. Hate filled words lead to hate filled actions. In Windsor Muslims have faced racial attacks for three nights running this week.

Last weekend in Preston a 16-year-old Asian was stabbed in the arm as disturbances involving 200 people flared following attacks on cars parked at a mosque.

In July Shezan Umarji, 20, was killed on the Callon Estate, one and a half miles away from where the present attack took place.

Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition was absolutely right to say about Straw that, 'To expect some Muslim women to make him feel more comfortable by disrobing is both a sleazy and racist attack.

'Britain would be a lot better off if Jack Straw were to hide his face in shame!'

Respect MP George Galloway says, 'Who does Jack Straw think he is to tell his female constituents that he would prefer they disrobe before they meet him?

'For that is what this amounts to. It is a male politician telling women to wear less. When put like that, there's no one who would be considered part of the civilised political spectrum who would have anything but contempt for Straw.

'Yet, because this is about Muslims, we are seriously being told this is about breaking down the ‘barriers to community cohesion’. It is not women choosing to wear what they want that is sowing division in our society.

“It is poverty, racism and the despicable competition between the Tory and New Labour front benches over who can grab the headlines as the hammer of the Muslims.

'You only have to look at the three nights of violence directed against one Muslim family in Windsor to see where the real threat to a united and diverse community comes from.'

'Straw should be forced to resign now. He has rested on the support of Muslim and other traditional Labour voters in Blackburn for far too long. They, and every right thinking person in the constituency, should together take a big step towards uniting the community through breaking with Straw and electing someone who will truly represent them.'

John Rees, Respect National Secretary added, 'Straw's disgusting comments will fuel racism and Islamophobia. Is he going to ask Sikhs to take off their turbans and Jews to take of their skullcaps?

'This government has been fuelling Islamophobia with its wars on Afghanistan and Iraq and its so-called 'war on terror'. Now Straw, who was foreign secretary when we went into Iraq based on Blair's big lie, has made the situation even worse.

“He must resign now and let the people of his constituency choose someone who will stand up for them rather than attack them.'

Anti-war campaigners will be among those protesting outside Jack Straw's office in Blackburn tomorrow, Saturday 7 October, from 10.30am - 12 noon


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Sat 7 Oct 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2021
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