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I don't regret my remark on women's veil: Straw

The former foreign secretary wrote in a newspaper column that he asks women to remove the veil when they meet him.

india Updated: Nov 03, 2006 11:37 IST

Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that he had no regrets about the article he wrote on Muslim women's veils that triggered an emotionally charged debate around Britain and as far away as the Middle East.

Straw wrote in a newspaper column last month that he asks women who visit his district office wearing veils that cover almost their entire face to remove the garment when they meet with him.

That set off a furious national debate on British multiculturalism and the identity and integration of minority groups, particularly Muslims.

Prime Minister Tony Blair eventually jumped in, saying the full-face veil known as the niqab is "a mark of separation."

"I would write the same column again," Straw, who now serves as leader of the House of Commons, said at an interfaith forum in London.

He said the piece he published in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph newspaper had been thoughtful and respectful, and that he had never challenged women's right to wear a veil.

He emphasised that he only requested - and never demanded - that women remove the veils in his office and said he did not support banning the coverings.

He said those living in Britain should have a stronger sense of shared identity based on the country's democratic values.

Good relations between those of different backgrounds "means all of us ensuring we do not put up barriers to prevent effective communication and dialogue, and that we progress toward the kind of respectful integration for which we have fought for so long," he said.

First Published: Nov 03, 2006 11:37 IST