Jack Straw, the ex-foreign secretary, has angered Muslim groups by suggesting women who wear veils can make relations between communities more difficult. The Blackburn MP says the veil is a "visible statement of separation and of difference" and he asks women visiting his surgery to consider removing it.
The remarks attracted an angry response from some organisations representing Muslims. It was "astonishing" that Mr Straw chose to "selectively discriminate on the basis of religion", said Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission. Halima Hussain, from civil liberties group the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, asked BBC News 24: "Who is Jack Straw to comment on negative symbols within a religion that is not his own?" Rajnaara Akhtar, who chairs the organisation Protect-Hijab, suggested the "appalling" comments showed "a deep lack of understanding".