Thursday, October 05, 2006

Credit Where It's Due

Full marks to Mr Straw for stating what to me seems bloomin' obvious:

Jack Straw, the ex-foreign secretary, has angered Muslim groups by suggesting women who wear veils can make relations between communities more difficult.

The Blackburn MP says the veil is a "visible statement of separation and of difference" and he asks women visiting his surgery to consider removing it.

and a slightly surprised "well done" to Mr Cameron for coming out so strongly in support of the NHS

Mr Cameron called the NHS was one of the 20th Century's greatest achievements.

"Tony Blair explained his priorities in three words: education, education, education," he told Tory activists in Bournemouth.

"I can do it in three letters: NHS."

I've got to say though, that however important the NHS is to me, it wouldn't ever get above, say, number 4 on my list of priorities...


Anonymous said...

It's just a shame Simon Hughes reacted so poorly to Straw's accurate statement.

rkjfyoung said...

Good grief! Do you call yourself a Liberal Democrat? Liberalism, you nitwit, upholds the right to be different. It upholds the right of women to dress as they please. If the dimwitted Jack Straw asked a nun in his surgery to remove her wimple I suppose you would applaud that too? It is after all "a visible statement of separation and of difference". So is a vicar's dog collar, a policeman's uniform, or your (Chris Black's) bald head and smug smile. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH STATEMENTS OF SEPARATION AN DIFFERENCE. Liberal Democrats should take pride in them. It is NOT LIBERAL to demand conformity.
Can you not see that what Straw and Co (including Ruth Kelly with her Commission on Inclusion and Diversity or whatever it was called) are doing by trying to row back on multiculturalism is selling the pass to racists and extremists like the BNP. Look at what is happening in Windsor, and ask yourself whether mutual tolerance and respect is not the better (indeed, the only possible) course.

The Cat said...

Have to agree with Robin (I think?) and disagree with Chris (presume you're "ChrisA" on ?).

Whatever happened to the harm principle?

I guess Straw can invite attendees to his surgery to dress in whatever way he wishes (bondage gear perhaps?) - but he'd be (even more of) a crappy representative of his constituents if he insists on it.

On top of all that, this is a classic right-wing dog whistle utterance. Says something about today's Labour party that Straw thinks this is a vote winner for him in the Deputy Leadership stakes :roll:

Chris Black said...

This is nothing to do with policemans uniforms.

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

One person wearing a niqab is a sign of individual choice. Trouble is, 500,000 people wearing them - and perhaps that's where we are heading - wouldn't signify freedom from conformity. And it wouldn't signify an open society.

And yes, I think there are problems with "Statements of Separation" if they cover up your face. Covering your face is literally an anti-social thing to do - it prevents proper non-verbal communication. And if you really want to foster the growth of the dirty right like the BNP, encourage the wearing of the veil.

I've looked at quite a lot of Arabic-language TV from around the Middle East and Sudan. It's funny, but the first time I saw a woman being interviewed on TV wearing a niqab was this morning- from Blackburn on the BBC.

PS , no I'm not ChrisA !

rkjfyoung said...

You say it's not about policemen's uniforms, but of course they are a visible statement of difference and separation just as veils are - and in the wrong context they can harm community relations. (I was a reporter for The Times at the Broadwater Estate, Tottenham, and Brixton riots). But policemen aside if you question people's right to wear veils - what comes next, Hassidic hats and ringlets, skullcaps, nuns' habits.
You are afraid (that, of course, is the trouble - you ARE afraid) that 500,000 in veils would not be an open society. Actually the veiled women I have heard on TV and radio from Blackburn have been better spokespeople for liberal values and the British tradition of open society than either you or Jack Straw.
Straw, by the way, was just on Radio 4 Today saying that he regarded it as essential not only to hear what people say but to see what they mean, "and I use the word see advisedly". So Isuppose he thinks David Blunkett, as a blind person, cannot be an adequate MP.
This man Straw thinks (or claims to think) for months - and then comes to the wrong conclusions. I should get off his bandwagon, mate, before it gathers speed. You don't stop the BNP by compromising with them - which is what you say you want to do.
I come from Camden where one sixth of our elecorate is Muslim. Not as many here wear full veils as do in for example Tower Hamlets (where I was until recently a reading assistant in a largely Muslim school). But take a walk in Regents Park and you will see very many Muslim ladies in full rig. Strangely enough I have never had any difficulty communicating with any of them - and one of them was once kind enough to offer to tell me the way when she thought I was lost!

Chris Black said...

Yes, you are spot on. I am indeed afraid that the trends that would lead to 500,000+ citizens in veils would not allow an open, liberal society.

I could be wrong, and I hope I am. But I don't think so.

Praguetory said...

Young - I think Straw is entitled to talk about this. Straw is at the real front line and I don't think he is saying this for electoral benefit. You are dreaming if you think that the Muslims in veils and their menfolk are the real liberal voice in this country. Allow me to rephrase. You are stupid.

Kim Ayres said...

So, what are the 3 thing you'd list above the NHS?

Chris Black said...

Kim, I'd say :

1) The Environment - the long-term most important issue

2) The Economy - because if we get this wrong, we don't have enough money to put other things right.

3) Iraq and Afghanistan. Actually, if we could sort that out , I would probably move the NHS (or health in general) up to number 3

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