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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 October 2006, 02:57 GMT 03:57 UK
Davis in 'UK apartheid' warning
David Davis
Mr Davis is worried that Britain is becoming a divided society
The row over Muslim women wearing veils shows how Britain risks creating a system of "voluntary apartheid", shadow home secretary David Davis has warned.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Davis questioned whether there was a "series of closed societies" in the UK.

And he said there was a growing feeling the Muslim community was "excessively sensitive to criticism" and "unwilling to engage in substantive debate".

Last week Commons leader Jack Straw said the veils caused "separateness".

Government 'confused'

Mr Davis, the Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden, said religious divisions were threatening to "corrode" fundamental values such as freedom of speech.

He said there was a feeling some Muslim leaders wanted to be protected "from criticism, argument, parody, satire and all the other challenges that happen in a society that has free speech as its highest value".

What Jack [Straw] touched on was the fundamental issue of whether, in Britain, we are developing a divided society
David Davis

Mr Davis accused the government of showing a "confused, confusing and counterproductive" attitude towards the problem of integration.

He expressed sympathy for Mr Straw's admission that he asked women to remove their veils when they came to his constituency offices.

But Mr Davis insisted that the problem went deeper.

"What Jack touched on was the fundamental issue of whether, in Britain, we are developing a divided society," he said.

"Whether we are creating a series of closed societies within our open society.

"Whether we are inadvertently encouraging a kind of voluntary apartheid."

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