Had a rather evntful morning. Woke up to discover that the water was off and the street outside was flooded. The people from Yorkshire Water came out and had it back on very quickly, only for us to discover that the toilet was now spilling water all over the bathroom floor. We stood there like lemons looking at it, until S (the organised one and mother of the house) took charge and got us to stem the flow. Eventually it stopped, and all was back to normal.
Free from torrents, toilets and other disctractions, I can now talk about Jack Straw’s latest comments. He’s taken it from concerns about meeting with his contituents to a full-blown “open and honest debate” of the kind of new Labour love so well. If this is Straw making his play for high office when Brown takes over, it’s telling that all he has to offer is yet more stupidity and illiberalism. (I remember when Jack Straw as Home Secretary was the last word in stupidity and illiberalism. Oh, those were the days.)
I see a couple of Muslim students around campus who wear the full niqab, with only a slit for eyes. It does make me a little uncomfortable. But I don’t ask them to take it off, just as people don’t ask me to change my appearance or dress. If we were talking, maybe I’d ask her about why she wears it. Maybe I’d learn something. And maybe I’d come away reassured.
Letting someone know who you feel about the veil is fine. Asking them to take it off, in your office or home, is fine too, as long as you explain why (and ask nicely). Demanding that it not be worn at all is illiberal and plain wrong. And conflating the two positions, as Straw has done, does no favours for understanding and tolerance.