Managed to find Jack Straw's whole article. Reads like something colonial from the days of the Raj.
But he's also hopelessly ill-informed:
And women as well as men went head uncovered the whole time when in their Hajj – pilgrimage – in Mecca.
Head uncovered? I thought this was about the niqab, the veil covering the face. Because it's certainly not true - women do not uncover their heads during the Hajj.
There are other troubling parts to his argument:
... the apparent incongruity between the signals which indicate common bonds – the entirely English accent, the couples’ education (wholly in the UK) – and the fact of the veil.
You could easily substitute "veil" for "hijab" in this sentence, and indeed any Islamic practice you care to name. Later in the article:
Would she, however, think hard about what I said – in particular about my concern that wearing the full veil was bound to make better, positive relations between the two communities more difficult.
It was such a visible statement of separation and of difference.
Again, where does this line of thinking stop? Someone else could make a similar argument that the headscarf is also a "visible statement of separation and of difference" making "positive relations" "more difficult". The grounds of Straw's argument are weak and dangerous.
The Prime Minister meanwhile has refused to rule out a legal ban on the niqab:
Asked if there were any plans to enshrine in law the removal of veils in public places, such as MPs surgeries, the PMS replied that though the matter was being publicly debated, it did not make it a matter of future Government policy.
He voluntarily defended Straw's right to "have a discussion and to express [his] personal views", but did not similarly defend a woman's right to wear what she wants. It's funny how the last couple of days, all these defenders of freedom of expression have disappeared.