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    Good stuff. I think that here
    you may fined a similar view.

    Regarding this quote, though:

    "Namely, forever rolling out irreligious and anti-religious Jews who are only too eager to sign manifestoes and self-important letters to the press dissociating themselves from Jews who are religious and especially from Jewish separatist fundamentalists."

    I wouldn't say that irreligious (atheist) people are the only source of anti-Zionist feelings, though. We have quite enough of that in some haredi circles, as we know.


    I mean "find" and not "fined", of course. These singerflips...

    Mick H

    I find your argument baffling. Why on earth should it be a criticism of Straw that he doesn't ask women on the street to remove their veils when he's out canvassing? That really would be crass. In his surgery he's dealing with women who've come to him for help, and finds it easier to communicate if they remove their veils. Seems entirely reasonable to me.

    And Snoopy - that post at DSTPW you link to doesn't seem to me to putting forward a similar view at all.


    A great piece Judy, very well argued.

    Dave Hill

    This is fantastic piece. Like you, I was out of circulation when the Straw business broke and I'm still catching up with and reeling from the way mainstream liberal commentators have piled in behind Straw and have now been joined by Gordon Brown. "New" Labour's "integration" strategy is a - hah! - veil for a covert policy of harrassment and the management of fear for electoral advantage. It is utterly shameful.


    "I find his whole way of siting this debate in the public domain disingenuous and calculating."

    Well said.


    Judy: Did you hear Henry Levy on the radio invoking Levinas and his seminal essay on the Face in support of Straw's stance? Do you not think that the face to face encounter is an important aspect of the engagement of our humanity?


    correction - Henri-Levy


    Why do you assume Saira Khan is a 'non-observant' Muslim? 'Non-observant is commonly used to describe Jews who don't observe Mitzvot, and seems inappropriate in the context of Islam. Ms Khan does not reject Islam - she rejects what she sees as abuse of Islam by men who misappropriate the religion to subjugate women.

    I think your sympathy for Jewish religious observance may be confusing you when you come to analyse the arguments in the veil debate. Niqab is seen by some, but not all, Muslims as a religious requirement.

    Religious 'observance' requires us to reject man-made misinterpretation in favour of the path we believe to be ordained by G-d. In Islam, as in Judaism, there is more than one way to follow the religion. It is presumptuous to dismiss Ms Khan as 'non-observant' simply because she does not appear to follow the most visible form of Islam.

    Were the laws of Tzniut to require full veiling, I think you would find, even amongst Orthodox Jews, a similarly healthy feminist debate.


    I don't blame Judy for her scepticism about Straw's seemingly sudden attitudinal change (from outright dhimmitude), but Melanie Phillips refers to the "new reality" various "New Labour" MPs seem to be responding to John Reid and Ruth Kelly among them as "a small step forward", particular Kelly's recent acknowledgement that "funding and engaging [with]" organizations like Sir Iqbal's MCB has been a disaster and that the new plan is to defend British values as the way to prevent the radicalization of future generations of Muslims.

    I just hope that this small step forward hasn't come too late.


    Whilst I'm suspicious of Jack Straw from bringing this up now, I think it simplistic to say those who wear the veil are equivalent to say nuns or monks.

    Several middle eastern countries have passed laws against certain religious dress because they recognise the symbolic links to extremism. Moreover the rise in wearing such garments has less to do with religious revival and more to do with deliberate rejection of the west.

    I also have severe doubts about the argument concerning personal liberty. Whilst I don't doubt that some freely wear the veil because of belief, I suspect that a far larger number wear it because of social pressure or worse.

    Nuns (to pick one of your examples) have been subject to criticism and ridicule for many many years. Can you imagine a Magdalene Sisters made about Islam? There's little doubt that Islam deserves such a film just as much as the Catholic church but who would dare make it?

    We've reached a point in the West where real dialogue is virtually dead. The slightest comment is denounced as racism or Islamophobia. It ought to be possible to say that veils make people uncomfortable without it receiving any comment let alone criticism. Hell's Angels, Skinheads, and Muslim men with beards and Pakistani costume do make me uncomfortable. In different ways, their garb and manner tell me they despise me and threaten me. I don't reserve such feelings of discomfort to myself - they are perfectly free to feel uncomfortable with me.

    John Brissenden

    Blimey Judy. You and I keep very different company, but, as with your piece on the Danish cartoons, I find almost nothing in this post with which I would disagree. Like you, I find Straw's "whole way of siting this debate in the public domain disingenuous and calculating."

    John Brissenden

    Oops. Wrong url.

    Squander Two

    Mick H is right. There's a world of difference between asking someone to accommodate your wishes when they've come into your office and asking them to do so out in public or on their own doorstep. Similarly, the fact that banks don't send their employees out into the street to ask motorcyclists to remove their helmets in carparks, cafes, and phonebooths is not, I think, indicative of any hypocrisy on the banks' part.

    What is perhaps indicative of hypocrisy is the difference between Straw now and Straw then -- the definition of racism he forced the police to use is rather appalling -- but that could as much be that he's changing his mind as that he's a hypocrite.

    I don't much like the man, but, on this one, he's right.

    > I can't think of any comparable warning on forms of dress given to any group in the UK by any political or public figure.

    Warning? What warning?

    Nick (South Africa)

    Of course the veil is a political statement; it 'screams' political Islam, an extreme political World view completely at odds with modernity, pluralism, tolerance and the values of a liberal democracy.

    It's also just darn right rude to wear masks when interacting with others. If you are rude, don’t be surprised if you get a negative reaction.

    The vast majority of these mask wearing Muslim women in Britain come from traditions where there is no history of wearing of masks. It is a new phenomenon, it is a political uniform every singly bit as potent and as objectionable as Mosley's black shirt or a BNP T shirt.

    Whatever Straw's underlying motives, his actions were right. I think he, and others have been rather surprised at the support that's been forthcoming for his position.

    There are more votes to be had in opposing the routine masking of Muslim women than in supporting it. On balance, I see that as a very good thing.

    The Lone Ranger

    "It's also just darn right rude to wear masks when interacting with others."

    It got me respect.


    I think it is wrong to allow a group of people to seclude themselves from society by masking their face. The veil worn in public makes it clear that 'they don't to be part of society'. In view of the reasons for the veil being worn 'men are pressumed to have no control over their sexual urges and women that don't cover are pressumed to be without dignity' i think it's highly immorally and offensive to all men and women, when this garment is worn. It judges all men to be sex beasts and women without dignity. No one should be given the right to discriminate against men and women in public. Nor should they be allowed to cry racist when challenged about showing their face. Racism doesn't come into it. Racism is a lever being used to further a right to wear a garment that is a religious symbol no less. Religious beliefs of this extremeness belong in the home or places of worship where they don't infringe on the rights of others. In addition, the veil gives out mixed messages to different people, i asked a young boy why he thought the teacher hid her face when the man came in the classroom, he replied 'the women had done something wrong and was scared of the man'. That insight from a 9 year old boy is shocking. That said, the actions of the veiled teacher teach young girls cover up its shameful to show ones body', it also teaches that women are submissive and that men are to be feared. These are indoctrinations we don't want to force onto children in schools. The veiling could also cause young boys to grow up resenting women as it tells them 'you are not worthy to share my space'.
    As for the outcry in regard to jack straws request, a simple one that most of us never need to be asked 'can i see your face', i find it laughable that he was labelled as being racist. Eye tests require the face to be unveiled, so does dental treatment and operations? I take it that all veilers go without these things??? So are these people that offer these services also racist? I think not. When the racist card is played by veilers its nothing more than an attempt to get their own way. Where is my right to see who i am talking to? Racism has no place in this issue. This issus is about veilers wearing a uniform to identifiy their difference. I also perceive it as a display of their intolerance for people that are different to them. To allow a group of people to wear publically their beliefs over their head and face is intimidating, it also ensures they dont have to participate in society. The purpose of the veil is to cause a barrier, it does that with flying colours. I feel let down by the powers that be for allowing this divide to happen. Showing your face is respectful in uk. Helmets are removed out of respect, so are hoodies and hats. Why should a group of people be allowed to hide their face? No one elses difference offends me as they don't hide their face and peer out from behind a veil. This is 2007, not 700. No one should be able to make others feel as if they are not worthy. Religion has too much importance in society and it's all one sided. No one should have the right to wear a portable barrier to keep out those different to them. I do think human rights are being manipulated by veilers and that they have the upper hand. What about the rights of others that don't hide their face? We have none. Only in the workplace can a female be prevented from veiling, as it's sexually discriminating against men when they veil among them.
    Communication problems caused by veils are another matter. Voices are muffled under a cloth. I could go on about this issue but i think the video of the teacher on u-tube makes clear the difficulty in understanding what the teacher was saying. She too had trouble understanding the questions put to her.
    When veilers liken their right to veil to that of a surgeons, its laughable almost. Some other instances of masks worn are below: Bike riders helmet is worn to protect the head from injury should they crash.

    Surgeons or dentists' surgical mask
    is worn to protect from blood splashes and to prevent infection. It's also smaller and thinner and attaches around the ears. Its the surgeons/dentist duty to protect the patient and themselves from infection.

    Rugby and hockey players face mask and helmet is worn to protect from injury.

    Welder's mask is worn for health and saftety reasons.

    Fencer's mask is worn to protect from injury.
    Not veiling doesn't cause the wearer health and safety issues. Veils are also not required for speech. If they were life saving, i would accept them. If the person had a skin allergy to daylight, no one would object as exposure to light can kill people with this condition.
    I think all religious dress symbols should be banned from the workplace and schools, so that no one can wear anything religious. That way the rule is fair. Schools are not there to accomadate religious requests, they are there to educate children. Religion belongs in the home and in places of worship. Until this loophole is tightened up, there will not be equality among men and women. France and Turkey imposed dressing curbs, why on earth can't the UK. On a larger scale, how do we know who we are talking too? If we can't see them....The veil is not a religious requirement in the quran and it's not compulory in Islam, so why is it choice here? How does one know all those that wear it, do so by choice? Given that females would be scared to speak out against their forcer.

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