| ||The former Justice Minister, Jack Straw, made a public apology last night over comments he made in October 2006 that have since sparked controversy on the wearing of niqab in the UK and across Europe. |
Participating in an election hustings event organized by the local ENGAGE unit in Blackburn Mr Straw said:
“To be blunt, if I had realised the scale of publicity that they [his comments] received in October 2006, I wouldn’t have made them and I am sorry that it has caused problems and I offer that apology.
Can I just say, this is about an issue of communication (you understand). I wasn’t raising it to say it [the burqa] should be banned – quite the opposite. Let me say, I’m not responsible for those in France or Germany or in this country pursuing this. That is their business. I am fundamentally opposed to what they are doing. But if you ask me the specific question: Do I regret the fact that it [my comments] had then got taken round the world and taken out of context? Yes of course I do and I go on seeing people – Muslim women, wearing the full veil in my constituency/advice surgery. I wouldn’t dream of treating them other than with respect and I think they know from me that I do give them respect and I give them as much help as I give anybody else whatever their faith. And I am really glad to have had that opportunity to clear that up.”
The apology comes at a time when Islamophobia is on the rise across Europe with the national debate in France focussing on the implications of the French government’s proposal to introduce legislation to ban the full face veil from public places in what has been dubbed "burqaphobia".
Here in the UK, the BNP and UK Independence Party (UKIP) have both come out in support of a ban on the burqa in their election manifestoes.
European Human Rights Commissioner - Thomas Hammarberg has condemned the bans proposed by the French and Belgian assemblies as a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Footage of the full hustings debate in Blackburn will be screened on Wednesday 28th April at 7pm on Islam Channel TV (Sky 813).
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