Cherie Blair today launched a strident defence of Muslim women saying it was wrong to see those who cover their hair or their body as a threat. Speaking just two weeks after her sister Lauren Booth converted to Islam, the former Prime Minister’s wife stressed that it was essential to respect people’s right to dress how they choose.
“We use the appearance of women as a metaphor of our fear of a supposed Islamic threat,” she told Spain’s El Pais newspaper. “There are thousands of Muslims in Europe who participate in our way of life and intend continuing to do so and if they want to dress in a certain way because of their beliefs, we shouldn’t feel threatened.”
Mrs Blair’s comments were made in an interview ahead of the European Muslim Women of Influence Conference in Madrid.
She stressed it was important to fight against stereotypes that “above all affect Muslim women”. “We tend to believe they’re oppressed, insecure and incapable of thinking for themselves and that is not true,” she said. “One of the things I try to do is help to explain that Islam is an open religion in which women have influence, whether they hide their hair or not. I was educated by nuns who were completely covered up to their necks.”
Update: See also the Daily Express which quotes – yes, you guessed – Tory MP Philip Hollobone as saying: “Most people in Britain will disagree with Cherie Blair. We simply cannot have a situation where more and more women are covering their faces in public because effectively they are excluding themselves from normal everyday human interaction with everyone else.”