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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 October 2006, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Straw words 'sparked veil attack'
Jack Straw
Mr Straw should have known better said Mohammed Akbar Ali
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
Mohammed Akbar Ali

"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.

Constituency demo

Some Muslims called his remarks insulting but others said they understood his concerns.

On Saturday an estimated 70 people - including 20 women in veils - from the Stop the War Coalition demonstrated in Mr Straw's Blackburn constituency against his comments.

Nahella Ashraf, chairwoman of the Manchester Stop the War Coalition, said: "Obviously we want to send a loud and clear message to Jack Straw about what he's said. We don't agree with what he's said, it's just completely out of order.

"The idea that after representing Muslims for 23 years, he's now come out and said that a cloth over someone's face is stopping him from interacting, is just absurd."

Speaking of the attack on the woman, Insp Saied Mostaghel of Merseyside Police, said it was despicable and had left the victim feeling extremely shocked.

The attacker is described as white and slim with silver-grey hair. He was wearing a light khaki jacket and grey trousers.

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