Britain’s race watchdog has said Jack Straw was “completely right” to express his concerns about Muslim women wearing veils. Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, also gave his full support to schools that ban girls from wearing veils in lessons.
With the row intensifying over Muslim dress, Mr Phillips told MPs he believed that Mr Straw, the Leader of the Commons, had taken a “perfectly reasonable” stance last week. “I think it’s right for him to say ‘would you mind not making me feel uncomfortable’ in this case, as long as it is clearly understood the answer to that can be ‘no’.” He added: “Jack Straw was completely right to raise this. It is not a question of public policy, but a question of social etiquette and manners.”
Mr Phillips also said he believed the wearing of veils for religious reasons should not override school-uniform policies, providing they have been “arrived at properly”. “If I were the headteacher in a school, I would probably say veils should not be worn in the classroom,” he told the Commons Education and Skills Committee.
Phillips, of course, was recently appointed by Ruth Kelly as chair of the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights, despite widespread opposition. As the Mayor of London commented at the time: “… what Trevor is doing is trying to move the race agenda away from a celebration of multi-culturalism and pandering to the Right, and I have to say it’s absolutely disgraceful.”