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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 October 2006, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Police chief urges veil row calm
Sir Ian Blair
Sir Ian Blair says warnings of riots are unhelpful
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair has called for restraint in the Muslim veils debate.

Speaking at a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority, he said "too many pronouncements" were causing Muslim women to feel victimised.

Sir Ian also said warnings of civil unrest were not helpful and urged people to "keep things steady".

The debate had not led to an increase in faith hate crimes, he said.

The row over full-face veils was sparked earlier this month when House of Commons leader Jack Straw said he asked Muslim women to remove their veils when they visited his constituency surgery.

We need to keep things very steady to be able to police a liberal democracy in very troubled times
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair

It intensified with the case of West Yorkshire teaching assistant Aishah Azmi, who was suspended for refusing to remove her veil in the classroom of a Church of England primary school.

Mrs Azmi lost her employment tribunal case for discrimination and harassment, but was awarded damages for victimisation by Kirklees Council.

Head of the Commission for Racial Equality Trevor Phillips then warned the row could trigger race riots.

Sir Ian told the meeting: "I accept the obvious conclusion that there are considerable tensions as a result of this.

"I think the important thing however is to make sure that we keep our nerve."

Teaching assistant Aishah Azmi
Aishah Azmi was suspended for refusing to remove her veil

He said he did not doubt Muslim women had been subjected to verbal intimidation or victimisation as a result of the debate.

But, he said: "We just need to hold our nerve a bit and stop too many pronouncements from too many people."

Anything which increases the possibility of public disorder - and "some of the very dire warnings" - were not helpful, he said.

"We need to keep things very steady to be able to police a liberal democracy in very troubled times," he added.

Tory leader David Cameron has also warned that politicians "piling in" over the veil issue has caused the Muslim community to feel victimised.


SEE ALSO
MP tells veil woman 'let it go'
20 Oct 06 |  UK Politics
Cameron voices veils debate fear
20 Oct 06 |  UK Politics
'No discrimination' in veil row
19 Oct 06 |  Bradford
Warning over UK race riot danger
22 Oct 06 |  UK Politics



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