Jack Straw, a former British Foreign Secretary, currently Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal, has caused an uproar when he revealed that he feels uncomfortable with veiled women, and asks those veiled Muslim women who consult with him to remove it.
However, in another story today:
Ruth Kelly yesterday defended the wearing of the veil as a ‘personal choice’ by Muslims that must be respected. She made her comments as the Cabinet began distancing itself from Jack Straw’s disclosure that he asked women attending his constituency surgery to uncover their faces.
What most interested me about the piece, though, was this:
Earlier this year, Kelly co-hosted a summit with Muslim women alongside Tony Blair. The veil was not raised as an issue, but the hijab – the more common traditional headscarf – was: she said the conversation had ‘challenged her assumptions’ about covering up.
‘I, along with many people, probably thought that some people wear the hijab not through choice but because they were expected to, and I found exactly the opposite,’ she said. ‘There was an overwhelming view that the people who were wearing the hijab wanted to and, among those who were not, some of them would have liked to.’