The recent squabble between government ministers over the Islamic dress code for women, has nothing to do with the interests of the women concerned. It is all to do with the rivalries between Labour grandees in the run-up to the party's leadership contest. Having implemented the same policies for nearly a decade, the rivals are keen to prove that they do have differences, after all!
However, it is one thing for politicians, or whoever else, to have an opinion on religion and the importance it should have in social life - something perfectly legitimate. But it is quite another for the same people to dictate to women how they should dress in order to make themselves more "acceptable" to British society.
As if Muslim women had to make themselves "acceptable"! What makes any of us "acceptable" to society, is what we contribute to it. Straw's "contribution" has been to preside over the invasion of Iraq, which fuelled religious fundamentalism and where British-sponsored militias around Basra even enforced the wearing of the veil by women! He is the last person to offer such "advice"! And his pandering to racism, under the hypocritical pretext of fighting it, is abject!
But the motivations of the "opposite side" are just as objectionable. Isn't it ironical to see Ruth Kelly, a member of a Catholic free-masonry, claiming to defend Muslim women's "personal choice"? Has she ever defended the "personal choice" of the poor kids who have to go through the Christian brain-washing imposed on them by so many schools, thanks to Blair's bigoted policies?
Because this is the real issue, and the only one which no-one in this politicians' squabble has dared to raise. All religions are oppressive, particularly against women. In the name of "multi-culturalism", Labour relied on reactionary "community leaders", many of them religious, to police ethnic minorities. The day-to-day pressure of relatives and neighbours has increased and made it more difficult to avoid conforming to customs, especially for women and youth who are not in work. For them, there is no "personal choice". In fact, there is no choice at all.
However, they could have a choice - not thanks to the politicking of ministers, but if the working class movement remembered at last that this form of solidarity is one of its basic tasks.