Why is the government whipping up a debate on the veil?

12 October 2006

UCU has responded to comments by higher education Minister Bill Rammell, in which he described a university's decision to ban the Muslim face veil as 'the best decision'.

The Minister was commenting during an interview about forthcoming government proposals to universities - which the government says are to tackle extremists on campuses and to promote good campus relations. Mr Rammell's comments are amongst similar remarks about the Muslim veil made by four other ministers: Jack Straw, John Reid, Gordon Brown and Ruth Kelly, in the last week.

UCU joint general secretary Paul Mackney last week warned the UCU equality committee that the government's forthcoming advice to universities is expected to contain highly controversial proposals.

Responding to Bill Rammell's recent comments Paul Mackney, joint general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU) said: 'For years people said that Muslim families won't let their women go to university. Now there are more Muslim women at university people are telling them what to wear. This is not something which is applied to any other group. This is not likely to make Muslim women feel welcome in higher education. Why is all this attention being paid to the dress of probably the poorest and most vulnerable section of the population?'

Kate Heasman, UCU's senior equality official said: 'There are issues about the veil but the bigger question of the moment is why ministers are running a coordinated campaign to whip up attention to this matter. Perhaps they are trying to soften up public objections to some forthcoming proposals.'

Last updated: 29 October 2019