Jack Straw is an idiot. That's the construal I put on his call for Muslim women not to wear veils. He gives two reasons, both bad.
I felt uncomfortable about talking to someone "face-to-face" who I could not see....So many of the judgments we all make about other people come from seeing their faces.
Well, how did David Blunkett manage? How does Straw cope with that ringy thing we call the telephone? If he's uncomfortable talking to many of his constituents, isn't he in the wrong job?
Wearing the full veil was bound to make better, positive relations between the two communities more difficult. It was such a visible statement of separation and of difference.
This is an argument for asking Jews to remove their yarmulkes, or Sikhs their turbans, or chavs their Burberry caps. So why didn't he pick on these? Why not go the full distance and ask that everyone wear identical suits, Chairman Mao-style?
All this matters in two ways.
First, Muslim women are - remember - Straw's employers. A man has no business telling his employers what to wear.
Second, multiculturalism should be synonymous with freedom - the freedom to wear what you want and believe what you want, however foolish.
Another thing: Labour Humanists point out that the veil is sometimes forced upon Muslim women. Insofar as this is true, it's a legitimate objection. However, Straw doesn't make this objection - if anything, he dismisses it.