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Trade unionists respond to racist attacks on veiling

by Esme Choonara

Hysteria over Muslims and the veil from the media and politicians has led to debate in many workplaces.

Derek Fraser teaches at a secondary school in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, and is the president of Rochdale NUT teachers’ union.

He told Socialist Worker, “Many people who I thought would be sympathetic to woman wearing the veil were quite hostile to the idea. I had to go through the argument about choice and the wider question of the ‘war on terror’.

“I think socialists have a real argument on this issue and must be prepared to be surprised but argue the case. Reading Socialist Worker gives me the confidence to argue against the stream.”

Steve West is a PCS civil service workers’ union rep in the job centre in Kirkcaldy, Fife. He said that he has had a lot of discussions about the veil.

“I am not turning people round in one conversation, but I think the arguments are moving on,” he said.

“One person raised the question of the veil and whether it is a barrier to communication. I pointed out that when I was a visiting officer in east London I would visit people wearing veils and never had a problem understanding them.

“I have been arguing to put the issue in the context of racism. Jack Straw’s words lead to attacks on Muslims on the ground. Everyone agrees that’s a problem - people are concerned about this.”

In Leicester postal workers from three offices in the city have come together to plan a new Postal Workers Against The War group as a response to the wave of Islamophobia from the press and politicians.

One of the postal workers involved in setting up the group said, “In the offices there are some people who are trying to use the issues against Muslims.

“But there are also very many - Muslims and non-Muslims - who realise just how dangerous it is when a group is targeted like this.

“Muslims are the main targets, but any Asian person can be picked on by racists.

“There is real enthusiasm for getting a Stop the War group together and some of those involved are also interested in Respect.”


Article information

News
Sat 28 Oct 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2024
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