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Last Updated: Friday, 6 October 2006, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
UK Muslim panel on the veil row
Four British Muslims from across the country share their thoughts on the row over Muslim veils.

Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said that covering the face could make community relations more difficult.

Mr Straw has said he asks Muslim women at his Blackburn constituency surgeries if they would mind removing veils.

Najeeba Durrani
Najeeba Durrani
Coventry

Zuber Bunglawala
Z Banglawala
Leicester

Jubril Alao
Jubril Alao
London

Saiaq Aftab
Saiqa Aftab
Birmingham

NAJEEBA DURRANI, 40, COVENTRY, YOUNG PEOPLE'S WORKER

Najeeba Durrani
Najeeba says she is not offended by Jack Straw's comments
I think Jack Straw is entitled to his opinion and he has a point.

I'm not at all offended by what he said and, although I haven't spoken to them about this issue, I don't think my friends or family would be offended by it either.

I can see why some Muslims may think Mr Straw was attacking their freedom, but what about his freedom to say such things?

I think when some women wear the full-face veil it can become a barrier.

And I can understand why it might be difficult for some British people to interact with women who choose to dress like that.

These are sensitive times, but if not now when would be a good time to talk about such issues?
I would like to ask women who wear the veil why they do so. I don't think it says anywhere in the Koran that women should cover their faces.

And I do feel that when people wear the veil it does create divisions between communities. I see people walking down the street wearing it, and it causes suspicious looks and comments from non-Muslims.

These are sensitive times, but if not now when would be a good time to talk about such issues?

I don't wear a veil or even a headscarf, and I have never felt under any pressure to conform to wearing the hijab, I'm quite strong minded.

I think you should do things from the heart and not to follow the crowd. I have seen many young Muslim girls leaving their houses wearing the head scarf only to take it off once they've arrived at their destinations.

Again, I can see this row going on for days. But what disappoints me is that there is unity in the Muslim community when people get angry - but where is the unity over the important things?

Mosques in the UK haven't even been able to agree which day to mark the beginning of Ramadan - why can't we have unity on issues like that?

ZUBER BANGLAWALA, 34, LEICESTER, WEB DESIGNER

Zuber Bunglawala
Zuber thinks the issue has been blown out of proportion
Again, I think it's one of those issues that has been blown out of proportion. Some people will create a fuss, and the media will jump up and down, but life goes on.

Mr Straw can say what he wants, but it's really none of his business.

This is really a religious issue, not something for politicians.

Mr Straw said he was worried about the veil separating communities.

But the whole point of the veil is to create a barrier - not to divide communities but to give women some breathing space in public, so that they can be modest.

Most people wouldn't be comfortable walking down the street naked, and I guess this is just an extension of that.

Ok, I can understand why some people might feel uncomfortable with women wearing a full-face veil, but that's just a question of what you are used to.

I don't really see a big problem with integration
Mr Straw says that he would prefer to see someone's face when talking to them, but we all talk over the phone and write emails. Should we ban those forms of communication too?

I can only speak for myself, but I don't really see a big problem with integration either. I work with lots of white people, I have good white friends.

As for the fear of Muslim ghettos, I just think it comes down to practicalities and economics.

Muslim people want to live near a mosque, where they can buy halal meat, and be near friends and family. So what's wrong with that?

I've never really thought about this issue before. My wife wears the headscarf, not the veil. My sister-in-law wears the full veil. But it's their choice.

And I really don't see the problem - unless people think women are being forced to wear the veil up and down the country - which I don't think is the case.

So it's just a question of being different. And what's wrong with being different?

JUBRIL ALAO, 23, LONDON, IT ANALYST

Jack Straw has a right to say what he wants, but I worry about the impact his words will have as such a prominent politician.

For me, the veil is a personal and religious issue, not a political one.

My wife doesn't wear the full veil but she wears the hijab, the headscarf. But I never asked her to - it was her choice.

And one of my sisters used to wear the full veil and we, as a family, tried to dissuade her from doing so because we thought it might make her stand out too much.

Jubril Alao
Mr Straw's comments were not helpful at this time, says, says Jubril
But she felt more comfortable wearing it and so we respected that decision - again it was her choice.

So I can see what Mr Straw meant when he talked about the veil creating a barrier between people, and I can understand that he wanted a discussion.

But this issue is already being discussed - Muslim scholars have debated it for 1,000 years. And ultimately it comes back to a personal choice.

I don't think this a helpful comment at this time, particularly from a politician like Mr Straw. There is already too much negativity in the media and in people's minds about Islam.

And on the other hand, it will simply give succour to extremists who will say: 'see even top politicians are against Islam'.

How far do we have to go to blend in?
If we are going to discuss integration and multiculturalism there are far important areas.

For example, imams should be from the UK and be able to speak English. Mosques should be more open and do more to address the issues facing young people in the community

The whole veil issue should come way down the list for politicians.

I hear people say: "when in Rome do as the Romans do" - and yes, we should all understand the society we live in.

But people are not all the same here. People have different religions and no religion. People dress differently and wear different clothes.

The point is - how far do we have to go to blend in?

SAIQA AFTAB, 26, BIRMINGHAM, WORKS IN PUBLISHING

Saiaq Aftab
Women who wear the veil are not putting up a barrier, says Saiqa

I can understand where Mr Straw is coming from. I mean I find it difficult when I meet people with the full veil - it is strange just talking to a pair of eyes.

So for him, as a non-Muslim man, I can see how it could be difficult.

And it's good to see a politician being direct about something for once.

But I don't think our leaders should tell people to take off the veil. Mr Straw said he asked women in his surgery if they wouldn't mind removing the veil - and he says no-one refused. But what would happen if they did refuse? Wouldn't that cause tension too?

And what about people who've been wearing the veil all their lives? Wouldn't it be difficult, even damaging, for them to be asked to suddenly change and stop wearing it?

Actually, I've started wearing the headscarf. It's something I've been thinking about for some time, and with the arrival of Ramadan, I decided to start wearing it.

People think women are being forced to wear veils, and I don't think that is the case
I haven't really noticed much change in the way most people react to me. But I do seem to get more respect from Muslims.

I think it's a matter between me and God - it's not about culture or society.

And I don't think those who wear a veil are putting up a barrier. I mean barriers are created by people on both sides - so it's also about how people react to those wearing the veil.

I think the real problem is that people think women are being forced to do it, and I don't think that is the case.

Personally, I haven't seen problems of integration.

It seems politicians have always been saying we need to 'integrate' more, but they don't know how to do it!







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