Straw words ‘sparked veil attack’

A leading Muslim has blamed Jack Straw’s comments for an attack in which a woman’s veil was torn from her face. The woman was attacked in Liverpool by a man shouting racist abuse, the day after the former foreign secretary criticised veils that cover the face. Mohammed Akbar Ali, ex-chairman of the Liverpool Islamic Institute, said Mr Straw should have known better.

Merseyside Police, who say the attack was a hate crime, met Muslim leaders on Saturday to hear their concerns.

Mr Akbar Ali, who was involved in the campaign to free Liverpool hostage Ken Bigley in Iraq, said the attack was no coincidence. “I put the blame squarely and without any hesitation on Jack Straw,” he said. “He’s a responsible member of the government and is in a constituency with a large number of Muslims – he should have known better than make such a statement.”

Mr Straw, Labour MP for Blackburn and leader of the House of Commons, said he believed covering faces could make community relations more difficult. He said watching facial expressions was an important part of contact between people. Mr Straw said he asked Muslim women meeting him at his constituency surgeries to remove their veils.

BBC News, 12 October 2006