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Many Muslim women in Britain had their face veils torn and verbally abused after Straw’s controversial call. (Reuters)

CAIRO — Physical and verbal attacks against British Muslims have been on the rise since former foreign minister Jack Straw’s call for Muslim women to remove their face veils, reported The Independent on Saturday, October 14.

“…We have noticed a rise in Islamophobic attacks. This time last year we did not have so many incidents,” said Azad Ali, the chairman of the Muslim Safety Forum.

Last week, Straw, leader of the House of Commons, wrote in his local newspaper that he asks Muslim women to show their face in the presence of female staffers when they visit his constituency office in Blackburn, northwest England, seeking assistance.

Straw also said that he would prefer if Muslim women did not wear the face veil at all.

Prime Minister Tony Blair backed Straw for raising an important issue in a “sensible and measured way.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, Blair’s likely successor, also insisted that it would be better for Britain if fewer Muslim women wore face veils.

Since then, racist attacks targeting veiled Muslim women have surged.

A day after Straw’s remarks, a white man pulled out the veil of a young Muslim woman and threw it to the ground at Canning Town Tube station in east London.

Another Muslim woman had her veil torn from her face by a white man who uttered racial abuses as the woman waited at a bus-stop in Liverpool’s Toxteth district.

On the same day, a young veiled Muslim girl was attacked by three youths in Straw’s Blackburn constituency.

One young man threw a newspaper at the Muslim girl and shouted “Jack has told you to take off your veil”.

A 21-year-old Turkish student was also verbally abused by a middle-aged white woman outside a supermarket in Canterbury, who told the Muslim student that she hated her presence in Britain and called on her to leave.

On the same day in Hackney, east London, a black Muslim woman wearing a veil was getting off a bus when a passenger shouted out: “Why don’t you show your, lovely hair?”

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.

As for the face veil, the majority of Muslim scholars believe that a woman is not obliged to cover her face or hands.

Alienated

Muslim leader have blamed the government for pushing the Muslim minority into “ghettos”.

“The [Muslim] community feels that there is always something negative in the news about Muslims,” Ali said.

“We feel very alienated by comments from people such as (Home Secretary) John Reid. Similar things have come from the Conservative camp,” said Ali, referring to Reid’s remarks during the Labour Party conference that extremist Muslim “bullies” must be faced down.

Two days after Reid’s remarks, a group of white and black youths attacked the Jamia Masjid mosque in Preston, throwing bricks at cars while Muslim worshippers were performing prayers inside.

The following day, Falkirk’s Islamic centre was set on fire, causing £10,000 damage.

A day later, the Medina Dairy, which is owned by a Muslim family in Windsor, came under siege by up to 30 people with fire bombs thrown into.

In Scotland, a Muslim preacher was hurt in an apparently racially motivated attack inside his mosque in the Scottish city of Glasgow, police, health officials and witnesses said Saturday.

Muslim leaders have pinpointed a growing sense of alienation from other communities, particularly among the young, saying Straw and his supporters had no point when they argued that the face veil impede integration.

They said the government should have addressed the underlying causes of this alienation like unemployment and poor education that had led to areas becoming “ghettoized”.

A government-backed study showed in May that the Muslim minority in Britain — estimated at some 1.8 million people — faced some of the most acute conditions of multiple deprivation.

In a recent interview with IslamOnline.net, MCB Secretary General Muhammad Abdul Bari accused the Blair government of marginalizing the major Muslim organizations in Britain for the sake of unrepresentative bodies and individuals.