State of the World's Minorities 2007 - United Kingdom
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||4 March 2007|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2007 - United Kingdom, 4 March 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a971352.html [accessed 17 September 2014]|
In the UK, the debate over multiculturalism intensified as the repercussions from the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US and the 7 July 2005 bomb attacks in London continued to reverberate. Tensions between the government and the Muslim community flared when some prominent British Muslims blamed the UK Middle East policy for 'giving ammunition to extremists' – an analysis roundly rejected by the government. In a poll of UK Muslims published in July 2006, 13 per cent of those questioned believed that the British suicide bombers who carried out the 7 July 2005 attacks, 'could be regarded as martyrs'. A month later, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Ruth Kelly, announced the establishment of a Commission on Integration and Cohesion. In her speech setting out the terms of the Commission, Ms Kelly said, 'We have moved from a period of uniform consensus on the value of multiculturalism, to one where we can encourage that debate by questioning whether it is encouraging separateness.' According to the government, the aim of the Commission is to look at best practice around the UK, with a view to coming up with recommendations on measures which encourage the integration of minorities. The Commission is due to report in July 2007. The debate over the position of the Muslim community in the UK crystallized in the row over Muslim women wearing veils. The issue seized the headlines in October 2006, when a senior government minister, Jack Straw – the former Foreign Secretary and now Leader of the House of Commons – revealed that he asked Muslim women who came to visit him in his constituency office to consider removing their veils. Mr Straw – who represents a constituency with a high Muslim population – argued that 'the veil is a visible statement of separation and of difference'. Many government ministers – including the Prime Minister Tony Blair – supported his view. The row gathered pace, when a Muslim classroom assistant in north-east England was suspended for insisting on wearing a veil in school when male colleagues were present. Although a small proportion of the Muslim women in the UK elect to wear the veil, the issue became a focus for questions about broader Muslim integration. In the torrent of debate in newspapers, on radio and on television, it was clear that there was a diversity of opinion on the matter – UK Muslims themselves were divided as to whether it was appropriate to wear the veil in all settings and circumstances. In November, the classroom assistant, Aishah Azmi, was sacked by her school. Previously, an employment tribunal ruled that Mrs Azmi had not been discriminated against, but had awarded her compensation for 'injury to her feelings'.