Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2023

Muslim women taking a lead on the 23 September Stop the War march in Manchester (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Muslim women taking a lead on the 23 September Stop the War march in Manchester (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Jack Straw and the veil

In “urging” Muslim women to remove the veil Jack Straw has broken the first commandment of the West to the Islamic world, “Thou shall not tell women what to wear”.

This blatant hypocrisy went unnoticed by much of the media. What could we expect from the people who have sensationalised and grossly exaggerated the Muslim communities “failure” to integrate with wider British society?

The debate over the veil is a proxy for a much less transparent issue - the position of Muslims in wider British society.

The government’s post 9/11 policies show Muslims both inside and outside Britain are causes of concern for the political elite. John Reid’s recent comments asking Muslim parents to spy on their children and Jack Straw’s latest comments exemplify these attitudes. As long as such sentiments are held among top tier policymakers, integration is unfeasible.

Shafik Mandhai, Manchester

Scapegoating and hostility towards Muslims is wrong. But the use of the word Islamophobia seems to be used by many Muslims to silence critics of their views or beliefs.

Surely in a democratic society we should have a right to disagree with other people’s views regardless of what religion they are.

If someone of a certain faith expresses the view that it is for example OK to execute homosexuals those of us who abhor that view should be able to argue in process without fear of censorship.

Does Socialist Worker agree with this or does it believe we should cowtow to other people’s beliefs and stay silent and not offer any disagreement or argument?

Daniel Factor, East London

As a teacher who works in a large multi-cultural school in West Yorkshire, where some women choose to wear/not wear the veil. I was shocked and dismayed to hear Jack Straw’s comments.

I could not help but feel that Jack Straw has, in his arrogance and ignorance, completely and utterly missed the point. Ultimately the choice about whether to wear the veil should not be an issue of how it makes him feel “uncomfortable” but how it makes Muslim women feel more “comfortable”. He needs to get over it.

Anne France Wilson, by e-mail

Islamophobia is a real and increasing problem - and we must stand alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters against it.

But I worry that in defending one oppressed group we ignore the very real problem of women’s oppression.

The veil is about seeing women as lesser and separate from wider society. This is oppression and we must fight it.

Pauline Whittle, Leicester

Fighting for refugees

The people of the Kingsway in Scotstoun, Glasgow, have a new sense of empowerment.

After two recent brutal dawn raids on refugee families, local campaigners called a candlelight vigil at 5.30am on Tuesday 3 October.

Over 120 local residents and refugees turned out and found themselves confronting the home office dawn raid team.

In face of the protest the police called off one raid and another was abandoned because the targeted family were not at home - they were downstairs taking part in the protest.

There was a particularly dramatic incident recently in the Cardonald area of the city.

During a dawn raid a refugee threatened to throw himself from his 20 storey balcony. Over 60 refugees and supporters came out of their houses to stop the raid.

After this incident even Jack McConnell, the Scottish first minister, has been forced to call for an end to the brutal nature of dawn raids.

He still says that he thinks there is a humane way of forcibly removing people from their homes.

A rota of early morning shifts has been organised, to watch out for home office vans. That is how determined the people who live in the area are to defend themselves and their neighbours.

Over 500 people attended a rally in George Square on Saturday 7 October.

At an emotional and inspiring public meeting, campaigners from Kingsway offered to go to other communities which include refugees to talk to them about how they’ve been organising.

To keep up the pressure on Jack McConnell and the home office, a rally and lobby of the Scottish parliament has been called on Thursday 26 October to protest against dawn raids and deportation.

Every individual and organisation is urged to be there.

If you would like to get involved in the campaign go to

Jock Morris, Chair, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees

Robin Hood and the McCarthy blacklist

Judy Cox did not mention the 1950s series The Adventures of Robin Hood in her article on Robin Hood (Robin Hood rides again, 7 October).

The series was produced by Hannah Weinstein, who had been a left wing political activist in New York.

She moved to England to avoid the anti-communist witch hunts. Weinstein also employed blacklisted writers such as Waldo Salt, Ian McClellan and actors Sam Wanamaker and David Healy.

Phil Knight, Neath

It was good to see Judy Cox’s article about the many re-tellings of Robin Hood - but there seemed to be two significant ones missing from her account.

Much more important (and well-written) than the Michael Praed Robin, was the 1950s version starring Richard Greene. I thrilled to this as a kid. No wonder.

Also worth looking up is the wonderful 1934 novel Bows Against the Barons by Geoffrey Trease. This book does for Robin Hood what Howard Fast and Kirk Douglas did for Spartacus.

“I’m Robin Hood. No, I’m Robin Hood! You know what, we’re all Robin Hood.”

Alan Gibbons, Liverpool

Judy Cox’s original article included The Adventures of Robin Hood, but it was cut for reasons of space

Vote Tory to get rid of Labour?

My main political involvement has been against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As you’ve pointed out, Tony Blair has attacked the Conservative Party for being anti-US - in other words less committed to George Bush.

At a fringe meeting at the Conservative conference Michael Ancram, a former Tory spokesman on foreign affairs, accused Blair and Bush of being stuck in a “time warp”. He said their foreign policy was “actively bad” because of their obsession with the 11 September terrorist attacks.

He also accused them of making an “enormous error” by refusing to press Israel for a ceasefire during the war in Lebanon.

He added that Mr Bush and Mr Blair should stop threatening to use force against Iran, and that in Iraq “it is time for us, while we still can with dignity and honour, to come home”.

The truth is that the Tories are now a better hope for those of us against the war than Labour.

I know Socialist Worker will not support David Cameron, but please don’t back Labour and if the Conservatives win that will be good.

Anwara Ali, London

Still battling for justice

Simon Jones was killed on 24 April 1998, aged 24, on his first day as a casual worker at Shoreham dock.

He was sent to work unloading cargo inside a ship - one of the most dangerous jobs in the country - with only a few minutes “training”.

The campaign started by his friends and family has fought hard, but despite winning some historic court battles to force a prosecution, both the manager and the company have escaped justice.

We were told that this would be remedied by Tony Blair’s crowd, but clearly we and all the other families still await justice. Blair and co are directly responsible for fudging the simple issues involved.

Ray Deans, Huddersfield

The unions and Labour

I’m hoping the Organising for Fighting Unions conference debates the unions’ funding of Labour.

My union hands over a couple of million pounds to New Labour every year. And discussion of the issue is stifled.

Given that local government is riddled with privatisation of services, supposedly to provide better services, why doesn’t this apply to the union’s financial link with Labour?

Why can’t branches be enabled to decide democratically just who they wish to back politically and financially? What’s to be feared by that?

Terry James, Cardiff

Waves of immigration

Most of the articles on the latest “wave” of immigrants draw attention to the labour markets which they serve.

While labour shortages in certain markets do exist, there is also a clear lack of decent pay and working conditions within these industries.

Far from improving the situation, this pool of labour drives wages down in industries that are already poorly paid.

The old maxim “skilled labour pushes wages up while unskilled labour drives wages down” should never be forgotten.

If you couple this new source of labour with family tax credits, then the bosses’ CBI organisation must be rubbing its hands with glee.

John Cintas, Manchester

Defend US anti-racists

On 4 October a large group of anti-racist students at Columbia University staged a protest against the Minutemen - an extremely right-wing organisation whose recruits include members of US neo-Nazi groups.

Republicans had shamelessly invited them to speak at the university.

The students unfurled a banner on stage that read “no human is illegal”. A scuffle ensued.

The university is now threatening to punish the protesters.

Please send letters in support to

Mary Allen, North London

The true cost of Trident

Thank you for your article on the revised estimated cost of replacing Trident (The real cost of Brown’s new nukes, 7 October).

There is still just enough time to help prevent this expensive folly by asking our MPs to sign early day motion 129: The UK and the non-proliferation treaty.

David Rolfe, Shropshire


In the presentation of Pierre Broué’s book The German Revolution 1917-1923 (14 October), the name of the translator, John Archer, was mistakenly omitted.

John was a veteran of the Trotskyist movement who devoted some of his last years to translating this book.

Without John’s efforts this magnificent book would still be unavailable to English readers.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Sat 21 Oct 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2023
Share this article

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.