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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 October 2006, 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
Minister condemns veil comments
Muslim woman with veil
Mr Straw said he would ask women to remove their veils
Scotland's communities minister has criticised Jack Straw's comments on the wearing of veils by Muslim women.

The leader of the House of Commons described the veil as a visible statement of separation and difference.

Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm said he strongly disagreed with his Labour colleague's comments and said: "I regret that he raised this issue."

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond described Mr Straw as "narrow-minded and bigoted".

Mr Straw sparked a row by saying he asked Muslim women to take off their veils at his constituency surgery.

We should respect the different cultures that are here and that is not against the idea of integration
Malcolm Chisholm
Communities Minister

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has defended the right of Muslim women to wear veils which cover their faces, saying that it was their choice.

Speaking on the BBC's Politics Show, Mr Chisholm said it was wrong that people should not feel free to wear what they wanted.

"My deeper concern is that it does relate to some other arguments that are running about the place of diversity in society," he said.

"We are absolutely clear in Scotland... that we cherish and we believe in diversity in Scotland.

Find out about different styles of Muslim headscarf

"We should respect the different cultures that are here and that is not against the idea of integration.

"It does concern me that some people think that difference and diversity is somehow against integration. I think that is fundamentally wrong."

Mr Chisholm's comments were welcomed by Mr Salmond, who said Mr Straw's views were an "absolute disgrace".

"Diversity is not a threat to identity," said the SNP leader.

"We should cherish diversity - not just assert an individual's right to have diversity, to have their own views, but to recognise that it adds to identity, it doesn't subtract from it."

Malcolm Chisholm sets out his views on the issue

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