Veil changes only possible ‘within Muslim community’

Ken Livingstone has said he would like Muslim women to stop wearing veils, but insisted that any such move could only originate from within the Muslim community itself.

The mayor of London said efforts by non-Muslim politicians to change the way Muslim women dressed would not have the desired effect.

The debate was sparked by Jack Straw, who revealed in his local paper that he asks Muslim women to remove their veils during constituency meetings.

Mr Livingstone said “change from within the Muslim community” was necessary if women were to ever remove their veils.

“I guarantee now getting Muslim women to give up the veil, which I suspect is something most people would like to see in the long-term, including myself, is not going to be done by old white male politicians telling them to do it,” he told Today.

“And that is why it’s important we should engage with the progressive elements and leaders in the Muslim community, rather than what the US has been doing over the last 30 years, which is alliances with say the Saudi [Arabian] royal family and the most backward and reactionary elements.”

A West Yorkshire supply teacher, Aisah Azmi, 23, was recently suspended for two weeks pending an employment tribunal by Headfield Church of England junior school in Dewsbury. School officials had said pupils found it difficult to understand her English through her veil, but she refused to remove it.

Ms Azmi said she had been prepared to remove her veil in the classroom, but insisted pupils had never complained of difficulties understanding her.