Stop criticizing that… thing we’re not supposed to talk about, lest our words be used to justify violence that political correctness will demand we blame ourselves for. “British watchdog warns on veil debate,” by Beth Gardiner from AP:
LONDON – The heated debate over veils that cover the faces of some British Muslim women is growing ugly and could trigger riots, the head of Britain’s race relations watchdog warned on Sunday.
Britons are becoming increasingly polarized along racial and religious lines, and if they don’t talk respectfully about their differences, tensions could fuel unrest, Commission for Racial Equality chairman Trevor Phillips wrote in The Sunday Times newspaper.
In an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. television, he said he didn’t want Britain to suffer the kind of violence that exploded in the deprived suburbs of Paris a year ago, when disaffected young people, many from immigrant backgrounds, rioted for three weeks.
He warned there could also be a repeat of the rioting in several northern English towns in 2001 caused by racial tensions between white and mainly Muslim south Asian youths.
“Only this time the conflict would be much worse,” Phillips wrote in the Times.
Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said some violent attacks already have occurred against Muslims in the country. He said some women’s veils have been forcibly pulled off, mosques set on fire and Muslims beaten by gangs of men.
Any such incidents are reprehensible and are as incompatible with Western civil society as the niqab itself. But they should not be used as blackmail to end this debate, or tar all who object to veiling and other trappings of Sharia with the same brush.
The issue touches on growing anxieties about Britain’s diversity and the alienation of young British Muslims like those who carried out suicide bombings on London’s transit system last year, killing themselves and 52 commuters.
Last week, Prime Minister Tony Blair said the country needed to talk about how minority communities could better integrate into the wider society while maintaining their cultural distinctiveness. He called the veil “a mark of separation.”
Phillips said he thought Straw’s remarks had been polite and respectful, but he worried the debate had since grown ugly and rancorous. The commission he leads was created by law in 1976 to fight discrimination and encourage good race relations.
In the interview with BBC, he said “what should have been a proper conversation between all kinds of British people seems to have turned into a trial of one particular community, and that cannot be right.”
Just all of the communities that practice full veiling, Mr. Phillips.