Ruqayyah Ghani, 23, a British-born Muslim from Manchester, reacted strongly to Mr Straw’s comments last night and defended her right to wear a veil. Miss Ghani was brought up in an Islamic environment but did not start to immerse herself in her religion until she was 18. At that stage she started to wear the hijab (head scarf) and two years later began covering her face in public.
“According to Islam, a woman should cover herself up in front of any men apart from those she cannot legally marry. That is why I wear the niqab (face veil). I have not been forced to wear it by my family, in fact I am the only one in my family who chooses to wear one. They were as surprised as some outside the family when I decided to start covering my face. But they accept it. People see it as a symbol of repression, but that, along with the stereotype of the Muslim woman covered from head to toe needs to be done away with.”
Miss Ghani rejected Mr Straw’s comments that the face veil hindered community relations. “I have successfully studied and have a job in the health service, it has not held me back. It can become a hindrance if you want to make it an issue but if you put it aside and deal with people on a personal level, it is not a problem.”
Not that this line of argument finds favour with the Torygraph’s leader writers. An editorial in the same issue, headed “Straw leads where the Met fears to follow“, opines: “Integration is not aided by the wearing of veils, just as it is not aided by the failure of immigrants to learn English. It is another example of the damage done by multiculturalism to the cause of real integration. Mr Straw is to be commended for brushing aside the politically correct nostrums that have inhibited such discussion among senior politicians.”
The editorial continues: “What a contrast to the supine behaviour of the Metropolitan Police when Pc Alexander Omar Basha sought to be excused duty outside the Israeli embassy – and was allowed to do so…. Once again, ultra-sensitivity to Muslim sensibilities appears to be warping the judgment of senior officers and could jeopardise the cohesion of the force.”