POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES
Why are you asking the general public a question of this personal and religious nature?
Do you ask the public whether a Sikh should remove his turban? Whether a conservative-order nun should stop wearing her habit? Whether a Jew should not wear a yarmulke? Whether the pope should stop wearing his skull-cap?
It wasn’t many decades ago that fashionable women in Britain and the United States wore veils with hats. Would anyone with manners have asked a woman then to remove her veil?
Most such old-country practices end after a couple of generations in a new land. People just naturally want to become part of the society in which they live. The most religiously symbolical of them however - eg, the yarmulke - even then survive. So why this probing into the practices of conservative Muslim women - and it is only conservative ones since the simple hijab suffices for many?
Jack Straw started this nasty business off in Britain, saying he always asked Muslim women to remove their veils when meeting with them. This was an ignorant remark, revealing considerable prejudice on Mr. Straw’s part. Blair only chimed in later with his popularity at record lows, and in keeping with a manner that has earned him the contemptuous nickname Fluffy the toy poodle.
No wonder the Muslim world feels under assault from the West. We bomb their countries. We keep men in secret prisons. We say forms of torture are okay. And we interfere with their religious and cultural practices here. Can anyone blame them for feeling angry?