“Since Jack Straw ignited a national debate by saying constituents who wear the niqab, leaving only their eyes exposed, made him uncomfortable, Muslim women’s views have got extensive and respectful coverage. They claim Mr Straw has saddened and insulted them. But what about the way the veil makes the majority of British women feel?
“A fortysomething mother in a practical Boden skirt and short-sleeved top sitting on a train opposite a woman in the full veil can suddenly be made to feel as tarty and sexually provocative as a Page 3 girl. It’s not a nice sensation – to feel judged for wearing your own clothes in your own country.
“The truth is that females who cover their faces and bodies make us uneasy. The veil is often downright intimidating. It implies a submission that is upsetting when women here fought so hard to be free. No one I know objects to a Muslim headscarf. But as for all the other restrictive clothing, I just don’t like seeing them on British streets.
“Nor do I want to see another newspaper provide, as it did this week, a cut-out-and-keep fashion guide to the different types of veil: ‘And here we see Mumtaz, or rather we don’t see Mumtaz because the poor kid is wearing a nose-bag over her face, modelling the latest line in female-inhibiting shrouds from the House of Taliban’.”
Allison Pearson in the Daily Mail, 11 October 2006