Sunday, October 08, 2006

Straw and the Veil

Jack Straw has obviously touched on a raw nerve but he has also garnered quite a lot of support.

His comments about veiling of the face have ignited a debate about Integration vs Multiculturalism generally. The newspapers have quite a few articles on the subject today and there has been increasing concern about the growth of minority ghettoes in parts of Britain for some time.

What is remarkable about Straw is that he has been part of the government that has been most at pains to promote 'celebrating diversity' at the expense of integration for the last nine years - for four of them as Home Secretary - and he seems to see no connection between what he identifies as a problem and the policies of his own government.

I taught in a school in London which was very ethnically diverse but where the Christian religion formed a common ground among all the pupils. Attempts by some pupils to create little ethnic blocs very quickly foundered on this rock.

Don't get me wrong; I would not wish to impose a common religion on all people in Britain - that policy led to some very gruesome consequences in the past. But we must find a common ground as a society - a set of values around which all can unite to perform the same function as religion in my school. While acknowledging diversity as a fact of our national life we must not let it dominate in the way that it has. We must think more of the things that bind us together and less about our differences one from another.


Arshad said...

We need to arrive at a consensus after healthy discussion and debate.

Paul Johnston said...

I entirely agree, Arshad. But such a discussion has no predetermined winners.