Jack Straw has defended his call for Muslim women to remove their veils when he meets with them in his Blackburn constituency.
Amid controversy over his remarks, the former foreign secretary went further this morning, telling the Today programme that he would rather the veil was not worn at all.
Mr Straw’s comments came after the Labour minister used his column in the Lancashire Telegraph to recount how he had conducted constituency meetings with a number of women who wore the full Islamic veil.
The leader of the Commons said he “felt uncomfortable about talking to someone ‘face-to-face’ who I could not see” and therefore took the decision to ask his constituency members to remove their veils.
Asked by the Today programme whether he would prefer the full Muslim veil to be discarded completely, Mr Straw replied: “Yes. It needs to be made clear I am not talking about being prescriptive but with all the caveats, yes, I would rather.”
Mr Straw stressed that the increasing trend amongst Muslim women to cover their faces was “bound to make better, positive relations between the two communities more difficult”.
“You cannot force people where they live, that’s a matter of choice and economics, but you can be concerned about the implications of separateness and I am,” he added.
Mr Straw’s comments have been met with anger by some within Britain’s Muslim community.
The Lancashire Council of Mosques criticised the minister for his “very insensitive and unwise” statement, claiming that he had “misunderstood” the issue, while the Islamic Human Rights Commission have also condemned his remarks.