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What not to wear

Peter Barron | 15:23 UK time, Thursday, 5 October 2006

The hot debate in BBC News at the moment concerns a hypothetical question. What would we do if a newsreader of Muslim origin returned from holiday in Pakistan and said that from now on she wants to read the news wearing a headscarf?

Newsnight logoTricky, certainly. But I think the chances of that particular scenario happening are so unlikely it's not worth worrying about unduly. It's far more likely surely that one day soon a Muslim journalist who happens to wear a headscarf will become a reporter and then a presenter on national television. I reckon it might cause a stir for a day or two and then we'd all carry on. On Newsnight, Hardeep Singh Kohli has been presenting Newsnight Review for more than a year wearing a turban - sometimes a shocking pink one - and as far as I'm aware the world has not ended.

Then Jeremy went to interview a group of schoolchildren on the day Tony Blair went on Blue Peter (watch the piece here), and the fact that he went to a school in Southall where the vast majority of pupils are not white caused shrieks of displeasure from some viewers. How typical, they suggested, that Newsnight should pick such a school.

But the thing is it's not typical. The vast majority of the guests we book on Newsnight are male, white and middle-aged, so are the majority of our viewers. And as Paul Mason's internal poshometer shows, Newsnight staff are hardly representative of the nation as a whole either.

You might say that's fine then. But what will happen in Britain if sizeable minorities feel that the news is not about people like them, not made by people like them, not for people like them. Problems ahead I'd suggest, but at least the headscarf conundrum might remain hypothetical.


  • 1.
  • At 05:13 PM on 05 Oct 2006,
  • Ritter wrote:

A 'headscarf' is hardly going to cause a stir is it? Anything more however along the lines of a traditional muslim 'jilbab' or veil could cause a serious problem, as Jack Straw timeously points out today:

Straw asks women for veil rethink

  • 2.
  • At 05:17 PM on 05 Oct 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

There is obviously a real problem here that is likely to cause a lot of friction and ill-feeling in the coming years.
Rightly or wrongly most people in the UK think that, in their treatment of women, Muslim men are behaving as if we were still in the Middle Ages. Are they using religion as an excuse? Do none of their women object and if so with what result?

  • 3.
  • At 05:23 PM on 05 Oct 2006,
  • George Shaw wrote:

What about the hypothetical situation of a male, white and middle-aged presenter of Newsnight going away on holiday, finding his inner woman and insisting on his return that he presents Newsnight in a dress.

Is that worth worrying about that?

"What would we do if a newsreader of Muslim origin returned from holiday in Pakistan and said that from now on she wants to read the news wearing a headscarf?"

I fail to see why this hypothetical has stirred up 'hot debate' at BBC News. There are newsreaders who change the colour of their hair, cut their hair short, etc, which means they do occasionally make adjustments to their appearance. But in any case, the headscarf can be made to look quite attractive, so if the concern is that a newsreader might appear somewhat dowdy, that assumption is not necessarily correct.

  • 5.
  • At 06:50 PM on 05 Oct 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

The only thing that would surprise me about an Islamic newsreader in a BBC TV studio wearing a headscarf would be that it is next to an open admission of what I have suspected all along, namely that BBC is affiliated with Al Jazeera. Its views are toned down for the domestic British audience but there is far more commonality between them than most of us would like to think. Eurabia has reached Hadrian's Wall.

  • 6.
  • At 07:33 PM on 05 Oct 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

"The hot debate in BBC News at the moment concerns a hypothetical question. What would we do if a newsreader of Muslim origin returned from holiday in Pakistan and said that from now on she wants to read the news wearing a headscarf?"

So why haven't any of the news bulletin editors blogged about it? Do their blog entries really not yet reflect the issues that truly concern them? It has already been raised in comments, including by me, in the context of the correspondent in Iran, who wears one.

"I reckon it might cause a stir for a day or two and then we'd all carry on. On Newsnight, Hardeep Singh Kohli has been presenting Newsnight Review for more than a year wearing a turban - sometimes a shocking pink one - and as far as I'm aware the world has not ended.

"...The vast majority of the guests we book on Newsnight are male, white and middle-aged, so are the majority of our viewers. And as Paul Mason's internal poshometer shows, Newsnight staff are hardly representative of the nation as a whole either.

"You might say that's fine then. But what will happen in Britain if sizeable minorities feel that the news is not about people like them, not made by people like them, not for people like them. Problems ahead I'd suggest, but at least the headscarf conundrum might remain hypothetical."

I'm afraid the assumptions that come naturally to you from your own life and upbringing are tinting your view of the world. Could you please at lead try to consider how things might look from the viewpoint of the majority of the population, the female one, which, when we waste our time thinking about it, have long felt that that the news is not about people like us, not made by people like us, not for people like us, which the BBC has never considered to be much of a problem?

Newsnight does have female viewers. You've even said so yourself, from audience statistics and your feedback. Surely you realise that Newsnight is uniquely attractive in having women presenters and correspondents who appear on screen to be of relatively equal standing with their male colleagues (in many ways, not affecting modesty towards male opinions, not younger, smaller, unduly glamourised). You have some female executives above you in the BBC who may watch the programmes. We tend to have very good reasons to see the facts you mention rather differently, and you could at least recognise that we do do, even if you perhaps have the opposite perspective.

For all of us the headscarf is a very difference problem to the issue of a Sikh man choosing to wear his religious symbols. It is a matter of whether we believe ourselves equal human beings. Far too many religions have taught or ordered that females cover our heads in shame / modesty or submission, by something or other. Read Paul's letter to the Corinthians for a detailed explanation as he rebuked the christian women of that city, having been attracted by having mistakenly believed that Jesus' reported teachings on equality actually included women (women being denied, and seeking equality goes back a very long way, it just isn't traditionally counted as "history"), and ordered them to resume the traditional place, with covered heads. Their own long hair sufficing for young women; short hair requiring an additional covering. That has not faded away even in British christianity. Muslim women's head coverings come from exactly the same roots, the potentials for loss of freedom of choice and expression, and indeed movement and occupation, are the same. In many countries it makes no difference if a woman is not a believer, she has no choice but to seem a believer.

For women any spread of "female covering", whether it is spun as fashion accessory, a proud affirmation of faith, protection from harassment or modesty, is highly significant, one way of another. I'm just astonished you think it not so.

Let's remember, please, that it is only 30 years since women were first allowed to read the national news on the BBC television, and in many countries they still are not so allowed, or their doing so is treated as something extraordinary and less serious, perhaps strident, certainly less authoritative. The US, for example, has only just got it's first solo woman presenter of a terrestrial network nightly news, and Katie Couric is definitely not yet at ease in the post. BBC women news readers still have to dress far less normally than their male colleagues. ITV's are even worse.

Let us also please remember, when you refer to Newsnight's, or the BBC's staff composition that only about 25 years ago, after being pressed by a women's group, the BBC's staff recruitment department found, and supposedly determined to take action to correct, that the vast majority of the corporation's uniquely significant journalism and production training scheme places and senior posts were going to Oxbridge men, with women having been deliberately excluded until the Sex Discrimination Act finally came into effect.

The BBC was not terribly different to other leading news and media organisations in that, even though, in the UK, there have been women paid - and widely read - as journalists for well over 150 years. Earlier, most women had to assume male identities or have men take the credit, for fear of religious condemnation, accusations of immodesty, of becoming unmarriagable.

Women got offered secretary's posts. As Esther Rantzen has written, the BBC had the world's most overqualified secretaries, not, as they were told, to enable them to apply internally for the jobs they really wanted, and were well qualified for, but to make them easily available as support for the men, including as dates, and wives. Women who didn't accept that path were considered politically dangerous, and risked their personnel files being stamped with that little Christmas Tree that indicated one was never to be allowed another staff position, all the paper evidence of which was suddenly pulped only in the late '80s.

All the senior women in the BBC have come after that, and still have to deal with some men who rose under that deal, and beliefs that haven't changed, much. I guess that includes that women's sensitivity to female presence on screen is still of little account. And thus no woman's position is actually secure, and signs like the acceptance of headcovering hold immense significance.

  • 7.
  • At 07:46 PM on 05 Oct 2006,
  • nadia sani wrote:

If headscarves returned to fashion like they were in the '50s, and designer scarves became "in", I'd like to see how many girls/women would resist wearing them everywhere, all the time.Would the government then object? What about sunglasses that everyone's wearing day and night(!).There's nothing more irritating than talking to someone who hides her's/his eyes that way.If you said ten years ago that kids would be PAYING thru their noses to wear torn jeans, everyone would have laughed to tears,but isn't that just what adults and kids are doing today?
Are we saying that if it's for futile reasons anything goes, but if it's a decision according to one's faith it's wrong?

  • 8.
  • At 08:56 PM on 05 Oct 2006,
  • David wrote:

Sorry but have I missed something here?

Is there a debate about whether it is OK to wear a headscarf, or belong to the muslim religion?

I don't think so.

It's exactly this kind of ridiculous assumption, that just being visibly muslim gives you a slanted political view, that is wrong with the tabloids and their ilk right now. I had hoped that the BBC were above all of that - apparently not. Shame on you.

  • 9.
  • At 09:44 PM on 05 Oct 2006,
  • S Teladia wrote:

J Westerman(2)wrote that Muslim men in their treatment of women behave as if from the Middle Ages. Eh?? How does a woman wearing a headscarf/veil relate to muslim male behaviour? If a woman CHOOSES to cover herself because it is an important part of her faith (which incidently, is ordained by our Creator and not some male!) then thats precisely WHY she's doing so and not because a man has ordered her to!
The only 'real problem' that is likely to cause friction and ill feeling is people with limited understanding and lack of correct information who make general assumptions. Islam has been the pioneering champion of womens rights and equality long before it became 'fashionable' in the twentieth century and if people bothered to educate themselves with correct knowledge of Islam they would really learn a thing or two about women's rights as well as a great deal more!

  • 10.
  • At 09:46 PM on 05 Oct 2006,
  • David wrote:

If I read those emails I doubt I'd agree with them. But you know, Peter visiting a school in Southall really does show up the fundamental disconnect that Newsnight and all BBC News faces.
Let me imagine the thought process that lead you to that school.
You could pick any school in the UK. But there isn't enough time to get to anywhere outside London. The BBC does of course have journalists outside London, but seeing as that's where they live they must be somewhat second rate. Secretly that's how you feel about everyone who lives outside the capital.
So we need to find a London school. You are very aware most people who appear on Newsnight are white men so hey presto you end up at a School in Southall.
I wouldn't email to complain about that. But I am posting to this blog to complain, because ending up in Southall is just another sign that however much you try Newsnight remains a programme that ignores the lives of anyone who isn't white and living just off Upper Street in Islington.

I remember when the BBC tried "childrens TV made by children". It was rubbish.

You don't need an office made of the exact same socio-economic mix as the UK to make news that is relevant to everyone. You just need to know what that mix is, and cater for it.

  • 12.
  • At 11:04 PM on 05 Oct 2006,
  • Graeme Mulvaney wrote:

To be honest I find it hard to communicate with people who hide their faces, be it behind a pair of shades or a veil - a lot of our communication is non verbal - I'd find it hard to trust your hypothetical newsreader for two reasons:

1. I couldn't see how she was reacting to the news she was reading.

2. I would be pre-judging her based on her religion, I neither want or need to know anything about your presenters, they're supposed to be neutral when they're reading the news and I try to be neutral when I'm watching it.

But then again I am, to quote your newsreaders, a 'non-muslim', so my views hardly count for much nowadays.

Up until recently I always considered myself to be a chilled-out Irish guy living in England - but not anymore, you've taken away my cultural identity and denied my celtic heritage, branding me as some kind of an Islamic reject - I'm not a 'non-muslim', in the same way I'm not 'non-black' or 'non-female'.

I really resent the way the media consistently classifies me on the basis of somebody elses religion, I've heard the phrase at least eight times this evening across four channels.

Why can't you say something along the lines of "tension between muslim groups and the rest of the community" instead of "muslim and non-muslim communities".

I don't have a branded community, let alone a vocal community spokesperson to represent my views on Newsnight or elsewhere.

See, and that's another thing that bugs me about this. You have the spokesperson for the Islamic Metropolitan Police Officers on the news, but I've never heard a peep from the Greater Manchester Association of Jewish Police Officers or the Thames Valley Anglican Confederation of Police Superintendents - I know Islam is the flavour of the month, but it's not the only game in town, for balance can't you get opinions from a wider cross-section of the country.

The more I think about it, the more annoyed your coverage of Islam V UK plc makes me - and I'm missing Newsnight now, you have my e-mail address, if you can tell me why or how you chose your guest commentators then drop me a line, I hate this one way communication - it's much easier face to face.


  • 13.
  • At 11:06 PM on 05 Oct 2006,
  • Royston Simmons wrote:

Whilst I was on holiday in Morocco, a male Moroccan explained the purpose and function of his traditional dress. He also explained the traditional female dress its purpose and function and that the Korahn does not require a woman to cover her face, but only to cover her hair. The decision for a muslim woman to cover her face is a personal choice and not a religious one.
Based on that knowledge I believe that Jack Straw has a valid argument.

  • 14.
  • At 11:08 PM on 05 Oct 2006,
  • anon wrote:

If a woman came back from Pakistan and insisted on wearing a headscarf, I'd start thinking she'd been brainwashed/threatened into doing it.

  • 15.
  • At 12:47 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Rob Davies wrote:

What will happen, asks Peter Barron, editor of Newsnight, "if sizeable minorities feel that the news is not about people like them, not made by people like them, not for people like them."
Well allow me to try and answer. They could always seek to assimilate into the mainstream of society and thus help us return to the cohesive homogenous nation we have now largely lost.
Or, alternatively, they could always tune in to the BBC's racist output - I refer to the ethnic-only channels on offer, such as the BBC Asian Network or the black, urban radio stations. I use the word racist here in a perfectly fair way, because by creating broadcasting channels based on the racial orientation of programmers and anticipated listeners one is being, quite literally, racist.
Can you imagine what an outcry there would be in the unlikely event that the BBC aimed some of its output directly at the native white population of this country? But well done, Mr Barron, for hosting a few white, middle-aged males on Newsnight - there must be life in us old native dogs yet! Hey, you'll be sending Paxman out to track down red squirrels next! Regards, Rob Davies

  • 16.
  • At 09:43 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • richi johnson wrote:

I am getting fed up every day turning on the TV and find Muslims again bleeting on about hard done they are, my feelings towards this race are becoming more and more mixed. Its time they fitted in or shut up, what about our feelings? This is my country of orgin, if it is thiers abide by the rules.

  • 17.
  • At 10:36 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Tom Maxwell wrote:

If you want to become a Muslim radio and TV company why not come out and say so.

But you can expect even more viewers and listeners to desert you.

Pretty soon the only people reading and listening to your news output will be Gordon brown and his mates anyway.

  • 18.
  • At 11:01 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Martin wrote:

I think it would be fine for a Muslim newsreader to wear a veil as long as on Muslim TV channels a female newsreader could display her hair, face and arms openly. Equality cuts both ways and if Muslims want to dress their way here we should be able to go to their countries and dress the way we want. Hiding your body language and facial expressions is alien to our culture just as displaying them is alien to theirs and both should make an attempt to understand each other. Right now it seems to be one way, us always giving in and pacifying the Muslims, allowing them to act however they like, while in their country they make no efforts to accommodate us or our style of dressing.

  • 19.
  • At 11:05 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Alex Swanson wrote:

"But what will happen in Britain if sizeable minorities feel that the news is not about people like them, not made by people like them, not for people like them."

Tens of thousands of target shooters, whose sport is all but ignored, already feel that way. And yes, I've seen the recent website articles; they're not enough, especially since they present perfectly ordinary people as outsiders who have to justify their existence.

  • 20.
  • At 11:08 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • F.Hudson wrote:

Graeme Mulvaney @ 12 above - Hear Hear to much of what you say!

  • 21.
  • At 11:17 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Em Lin' wrote:

I agree with the posting at 11.:

Dan G wrote:
I remember when the BBC tried "childrens TV made by children". It was rubbish.
You don't need an office made of the exact same socio-economic mix as the UK to make news that is relevant to everyone. You just need to know what that mix is, and cater for it."

To this I would add:

You don't only need to know what the mix is, you also need to (get to) know 'the mix'. I've seen you do it so it's not beyond your capabilities or remit.

The members of your team clearly have fine minds and interpersonal skills capable of illuminating our views on the world - and by extension , our experience in it. You've recently made some astonishingly good programmes which are of great value to our society. Keep going, I urge you!

Rather radically, I say: Camel the old 'Representation' paradigm, roll up your sleeves and ENGAGE.

The idea that Newsnight is a bit of a 'gentleman's club' is infuriating.

Sorry to have to remind you, but your work does matter beyond the realms of comfy armchairs.

Thank you.

  • 22.
  • At 11:20 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Brian Wotton wrote:

This discussion seemed to kick off from a newsreader wearing a crucifix & it being "suggested" to her that this was not appropriate. Now it would seem OK for some to wear head-scarves as a statement of religious preference and even, it appears, a pink turban would be acceptable - but not a simple piece of jewelry!
Come on?
Why don't you simply move the whole BBC operation to an Islamic country. The BBC seems these days to be obsessed with promoting Islamic issues & really testing the tolerance of an over-tolerant native culture.

I'd have no problem with a headscarf, but a veil would be no good for someone like me who is hard of hearing and constantly relies on the ability to lip read to 'plug the gaps' of what my ears fail to pick up.

  • 24.
  • At 11:50 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • chris wrote:

I remember looking at Mitchell and Kenyon's early films (made around 1900) of women coming out of the work place all waring long shawls covering the head and almost all men waring hats or caps at the time.

How in our own time we see a different value and perspective.

  • 25.
  • At 11:52 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Peter Walker wrote:

Let's not get into whether Southall is representative of London or London's populations representative of the UK.

Did anyone actually listen to what the children at the school told Jeremy were their issues..immigration was one what were the others?.

If the medium had been radio rather than television no one would have known that the children with London accents were of any particular colour or creed. We saw the faces and failed to listen or hear what was being said and you Mr Editor should have been following up.


  • 26.
  • At 11:52 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • David Symes wrote:

I switched off last night as I felt that a serious news programme was once again hijacked by an inbalance in the priority given to the sensibilities of 3% of the UK population. Newsnight has a Friday night Review program for those interested in the Arts - I can chose to watch or not. Please consider a similar approach to reporting on the sensibilities of Muslims to perceived slights to their religion. News worthy items about Muslims and serious analysis is fine on all nights but please lets have less of this pandering to concerns about upsetting one particular group of the population every night (in the news as well as on Newsnight) - or perhaps balnce it with items about perceived insults to Chinese, Hindus even Atheists.

  • 27.
  • At 11:54 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Richard wrote:

The word in all this is "minority". One may wish to take some modest account of minority views but the majority view should prevail, that is what democracy is all about.

As a friend said to me the other day "I go to some parts of England and feel I am a stranger in my own country". Give the majority a larger say!

  • 28.
  • At 11:56 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Simon J George wrote:

One thing of which I am certain, if Jack Straw was hoping to reduce the number of headscarves being worn, then he is going to be sorely disappointed.

Jack Straw has made Muslim dress an issue, and it will not now easily go away, instead it will feed in to the generalised resentment that many Muslims (wrongly in my view) feel about the British government. In trying to remove the "us & them" from society, he has gone a long way to entrenching it.

If ever benign neglect has a place in government and society this is surely an example. He should have shut up.

  • 29.
  • At 11:57 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • debbie wrote:

i could not care less what someone else wears... the problem that arises is that when they suddenly feel they must enforce their dress code on me... and whether a woman has a veil or headscarf or just her hair she can be a muslim... no one person can represent all people at once...

  • 30.
  • At 11:58 AM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • J Cassidy wrote:

The Niqab is the issue NOT the headscarf.

It's a human rights issue NOT a misunderstanding of cultures.

If MEN wear niqab's AS WELL AS WOMEN, then I would be more understanding.

If NOT then I call it discrmination.

But ONLY with the NIQAB.

We, who don't understand, need to be educated but not through violence.

Because violence is a blatent display of ignorance and lack of sophistication - NOT of heroism and grandeur.

  • 31.
  • At 12:02 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • christina wrote:

surely the covering of the top of the head does not matter. However ,watching two eyes only, makes tv no better than radio - you have no visual prompts .

  • 32.
  • At 12:02 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Honor M. Cox wrote:

I was not shocked at the choice of school nor did I think it typical of Newsnight or Jeremy. However I thought the point would have been made better if the school had been more mixed race and not so prepondentarily Asian

  • 33.
  • At 12:08 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • geva blackett wrote:

I am white, female, a regular Newsnight viewer and probably deemed 'middle class'.

The BBC is surely meant to be representative of British Society (although I sometimes wonder...).

Does it matter what someone wears as long as they report the facts in an unbiased fashion? Not to me it doesn't!

  • 34.
  • At 12:08 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • john wrote:

I saw this morning in a local shop a notice which said "No Hoodies"
Nobody turns an eye. If I was to wear a garment with a slit in it to hide under what could I get away with. For another anology..I went on a course in jeans. I was told in no uncertain terms that my dress was unsuitable. Moderation in all things usually brings about harmony.

  • 35.
  • At 12:12 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Jill Jago wrote:

Given that the Newsnight staff and audience is a fairly closed shop, I trust I am permitted to relate the following: when my 7-year-old granddaughter came to visit me in London from rural Cornwall, I had to reassure her that the women garbed from tip to toe in black were not wicked witches out to get her. My explanation that they were very religious and dressed in this fashion to observe the rules of that religion did not go down well. She gave me a very funny - 'as if' - sort of look.

From the mouths of babes and sucklings...

  • 36.
  • At 12:16 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Alan Marsh wrote:

Why not really go for it and employ a female newsreader in a burka?

  • 37.
  • At 12:27 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Mary Dyde wrote:

It is not the headscarf which is the problem, but the face-mask, I'm using English to describe it, I live in England. A point I have often pondered: what are these ladies passport pictures like and how do Customs identify the ladies travelling? It could be anybody, even John Simpson!

  • 38.
  • At 12:28 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Hilary James wrote:

Why on earth is this 'a tricky one'? For pity's sake, what has happened to our country that this is apparently the level of debate in the BBC? Once upon a time we had free speech and freedom of expression. Now, we have this kind of ridiculous 'debate' over the trivial.

What matters is what a newsreader is telling us, not that they may be wearing something as innocuous as a headscarf.

Stop pandering to the PC brigade, examining your navel, secondguessing yourself about upsetting a few religious nutcases who can't tolerate diversity in religion and get on with the business we pay you for, BBC! Bring us the news!

  • 39.
  • At 12:28 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Barbara Kendall-Davies wrote:

Am I alone in wondering what wearing a headscarf has to do with religion? You might as well say that you can only be a Christian if you wear a toga. Of course, I understand that it has to do with cultural identity but to link it with religion is false.
What no one has mentioned is that it is dangerous to be heavily veiled if driving because vision is so limited.
Many UK people feel that this garb is purposely adopted to emphasize cultural difference. When seen in the Middle East such traditional clothing appears picturesque but large swathes of black veiled women on UK streets can cause resentment.
It does not really matter what people wear but when linked with religion or politics, seeds of division are easily sown.
The French authorities maintain a secular society and when they banned the veil in schools little fuss was made. Hopefully, with sensitivity, common sense and mutual respect, schisms between cultures can be avoided.

  • 40.
  • At 12:29 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • william mcgirr wrote:

hi,I dont think jack straw wants muslim women to bare their faces all of the time, just when their holding conversation. Also I've read they have the choice, wear or not to wear in the Koran.

  • 41.
  • At 12:35 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • sheila Malone wrote:

I think it is way past time for the news staff to reflect the same people they are reporting/reading about. I live in the USA and find the news is not fair and balanced so I try to read/watch as many different sources daily as I can. Many years ago we had a black newswoman who went on camera one day with an ethnic hairstyle which not only looked very nice but was totally appropriate. This lasted about one day and created such an uproar that ended in a law suite. In my memory that was the first and last time I have ever seen anyone try to take on the establishment of network news. We all pretend we are white Christian males with a few token females thrown in. Then to add insult to injury we pat ourselves on the back once a year for remembering to say Happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas so we don't offend a few people of the Jewish persuasion. The reality is far far different of course on both sides of the Atlantic. Our politicans want to keep the myth that white Christian males are in the majority and so our news programs reflect that lie. It is way past time to tell the truth about who we really are and let the chips fall where they may.

  • 42.
  • At 12:37 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Amani Soliman wrote:

Dear Peter,
First, I would like to say that I am among your dedicated female viewers, always have been. In Islam, a lot of local traditions and cultural beliefs get mixed up with religion. It should be made clear that the "nikab", or face veil and not "hijab", the headscarf, which Mr Straw has rightly objected to is one them. It is an option chosen by Muslim women and not at all obligatory in Islam. I a Muslim woman, would, like Mr Straw, feel very uncomfortable speaking to someone whose face was masked somehow.
Thirdly, if it is any consolation to the BBC, many Arab TVs still refuse to put preseneters wearing the obligatory headscraf on their screens, including the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya, and Egyptian state TV.

  • 43.
  • At 12:54 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • June Gibson wrote:

There is a world of difference between a headscarf (or turban) and the full rig of black robes and veiled face. What are the wearers saying? Is it a statement of solidarity with Taliban-type rules? Is any individual a potential suicide bomber, not wanting to be identified? Is it two fingers up at our culture? Even worse the womens' menfolk might be making them wear it. There have been many laws forcing us to accept different races. There are laws against the covering of the face at protests. There are sex equality laws. Why?Because some will suffer or be offended if an action is not stopped by law if criminal or anti-social acts are allowed to continue and identification of individuals cannot be made. My sensibilities are being offended by what I perceive as a backward step for women and for our society as a whole. The practice of veil wearing is on the increase. What next? Perhaps the calling to Muslim prayers will be demanded or open-air sacrifice of animals. The Koran does not ask for Muslim cultural practices which are passed off as religion.

  • 44.
  • At 01:37 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Audrey wrote:

Maybe we are just protecting ourselves from a "Take over" or jealous that we shall lose our Britishness?
We have become a Global society, wether we agree or not its here, so why not embrace it.
The americans puported to be the leaders of fashion, lifestyle , or modern thinking had Martin Luther King to make them realise coloured people are equal to whites.
The children of that country accept the coloureds in their schools as their friends and are prepared to treat them as equal.
I am sure this is happening with British children to accept them as friends and equal.At 80yrs i remember we were angry at the various nationalities that arrived in this country with their habits and inherited ways of life , where are they now? we take it for granted a foreign surnamae is aceeptable their children have integrated well and married in to the British.

Freedom of choice has always been our perogative, live and let live i say , and if our britishnes rubs off on to them so be it.We should be proud we have such an inheritance to hand on to them.

Good luck and may you prosper to become valuable members of society.

  • 45.
  • At 01:48 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Sarah wrote:

What a relief to read these comments.

I've been too afraid to 'come out' and express my opinions. I had begun to believe free speech in the UK was the preserve of British Muslims or other "sizeable minorities". Afterall, have I not heard some Muslims on UK television and radio say that if I don't share their views, its legitimate reason to murder me.

I'm a blonde female and apparently identified as 'non-muslim'- Is there a forum/council to promote my interests and protect me against 'offensive' blonde jokes?

Perhaps we could divide the nation into blondes or non-blondes instead? and so that no one can be offended, all wear headscarves! Sorted.

Stereotypes eh?

  • 46.
  • At 01:52 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • John Hamilton wrote:

I'm sick and tired of seeing my culture take second place to a particular migrant community. The society I grew up in was a Christian one with good Christian values which some sections of the media are determined to erode in favour of the muslim view of the world. Why should we ethnic Scottish, English Welsh and Irish be made to feel that we are the minorority in our own respective countries, and that our Christian beliefs are somewhat inferior to the values of the minority islamic religion. Just because some so called academics are trying to conduct a flawed multicultural experiment where everyone lives seperately in their own little eutopian communities in relative harmony which in reality is social engineering gone wrong, doesn't mean that the rest of us have to bow down and cop it sweet. The muslim community seem to be a most demanding lot who insist on the rest of us having to change the way we do things in order to accomodate them, and are having a great deal of success as anyone who objects is immediately branded a racist.

Look at the islamic countries that most of these people originated from, not exactly beacons of freedom with laws that offer the protections that we currently enjoy i.e. freedom of speech, religion etc. If the muslim world and their values are so great, it beggars the question, what are you doing here then? I for one will never accept their values and certainly have no interest in the muslim view of the world. If people want to wear the headscarf or the veil whilst reading the news or anything else they want to do on television, then I'm sure that there are plent of Middle Eastern tv channels that will be more than happy to give them the opportunity to do so, but don't try to force them into my living room uninvited as I refuse to be indoctrinated by stealth which is seemingly the main purpose of this debate. My understanding is that the BBC stands for the British Broadcasting Corporation and it's about time the BBC recognised this and stopped pushing their sympathetic muslim agenda onto the rest of us.

  • 47.
  • At 02:03 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • John Gibbs wrote:

First let me say that I am English , and fair play is what most English people relate to . We take our turn and queue up and do not push in unlike a lot of people from other countries . We support the underdog , and all things like that . Sometime it is seems that when we protest about certain things we are called racist . Well I for one am not a racist I even have a black sister in law and she is very nice . I have worked in Arab countries and I see how we in the west are thought of . When you are in Saudia Arabia Women have to cover up and there has not been an outcry over here by the Church , because we accept that that is the custom over there . Likewise now they are over here let them act and understand our way of life . Instead of pandering to these people let them know that we did not drag them over here , and if they want their way of life then they are welcome to return to their former country and live their way there . This in England and it is a Christian Country and will Never become a Muslim country. This is the greatest country in the world and I am proud to be English , where you can say what you like without being dragged of to Prison or executed like some of these Muslim countries where there is acording to the papers a man awaiting execution because he became a Christion . Because of all this political correctness we are letting this great country be altered not for the better, but for the worse . It is time for the Politicans to wake up to this and do something about it , before Enoch Powell in proved right and there are rivers of Blood .

  • 48.
  • At 02:08 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Jeff fernandez wrote:

I agree that it should not be an issue and the world will carry on as before. Change however for a society to embrace takes time, but TV and its representatives have been highly influential on changing british perceptions on 'race'.

Maybe more could be done to promote this. But equality will always be an on-going issue.

But it has to be remembered, this is a democracy and all need to be represented as far as possible. That includes the Essex man who is stirring as he is being forgotten.

  • 49.
  • At 02:25 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • jane wrote:

Joining this blog, I'm amused to see Peter Barron for the first time. White? Yes. Middle-class? Almost by definition. Islington? Quite possibly. Middle-aged? Well, I'm not sure. Certainly younger than I imagined. And the grey? Well I'm torn between comfortably reassuring and a style statement.

So what's the issue with the headscarf? The hijab simply covers or dresses the hair and let's face it, often as not is both elegant and serves to reveal the face not hide it. Choosing to cover the face is something else - at least in a culture which relies on open face to face communication. The credibility of a newsreader or reporter relies heavily on the degree of trust viewers feel with them - and rational or not, that trust and the relationship which it expresses is enhanced by our ability to read faces and gestures as well as hear the words. To feel we know the person who is delivering and interpreting the news we are being fed. It's not an issue in radio or print but it's the essence of telly.

As a footnote, having worked in the Muslim community for a while, my understanding is that covering the face is an expression of culture rather than religion. In a multi-cultural democracy, it is a woman's right to choose but we also have to accept that our choice of clothes may preclude us from many a job where the work requires a dress-code. In the end, it's not an unfair reflection to say we would feel uncomfortable unable to see our newsreaders's faces - any more than we would wish to see them scantily-clad. (The same might go for our GPs, police, politicians, legal counsel ... the list can go on.)

  • 50.
  • At 02:29 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Doreen Richards wrote:

What happened to the saying "When in Rome "
Most Muslems come here for a better life and if that is so why change our habits and traditions, before we know it this country will resemble the place that they came from

  • 51.
  • At 02:53 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Lewis Aunry wrote:

so what if that is the tradishonal dress for them and you enployed them they should have thr right to do so

  • 52.
  • At 02:58 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Sam wrote:

I think its so unlikely its barely worth a debate, i think principly its becuase any muslim woman that allows herself to be so down trodden by muslim men that she feels she has to cover he face and/or neck is very unlikely to ever succeed in life to the extent she is reading the news becuase she obviously feels herself to be inferior to men, which is very sad.

  • 53.
  • At 02:59 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Stephen wrote:

What you are saying completely misses the point. It is difficult to believe taht you are really the editor of Newsnight?

A newsreader wearing a headscarf would cause no controversy at all. A newsreader wearing a mask however is ridiculous.

  • 54.
  • At 02:59 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Barend van Zadelhoff wrote:

I think it's pathetic that we should have to talk about a subject like this. I can't understand anyone who should make a fuss about newsreaders wearing a headscarf. I would say it's not about what we wear, it's about who we are. This newsreader wearing a headscarf can be a good muslima or a bad muslim. In my opinion a muslim wearing a headscarf is not necessarily a better muslim than one not wearing one. And certainly wearing a headscarf or not shouldn't be a criterion in a selection procedure.

  • 55.
  • At 03:05 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Brian J Dickenson wrote:

Wearing a face-mask in itself is neither here nor there.
Of course it makes it well nigh impossible to hold a conversation when all one can see are the eyes.
The main point to me is about so called integration, the face-mask does not help to bring this about.
Of course when one hears some clerics stating that they want Islam to dominate the west, this will not engender warm feelings either.
Added to this are calls from some to kill the Pope etc, but if a non Muslim criticises the Muslim belief they are condemned
There are many other ethnic minorities in our country but very seldom do we hear discontent from them.

  • 56.
  • At 03:08 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Diana Sutherland wrote:

I am a Christian and I must say I have reservations about people wearing the crucifix (or cross) as an item of fashion jewellery - I wear my cross as a reminder. It is a fashion trend which manufacturers are making the most of.
I think the headscarf quite an attractive item of apparel - I wonder what would happen if it became a "trend".
What I am saying is "Have we really got nothing more serious to be occupying our time with?"

  • 57.
  • At 03:09 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Tom In DC wrote:

There are not many comments on this story and a few that are much too long.

If a sizable minority group does not like the slant that news is reported then, I suspect that BBC or some other organization will accommodate them. A news program with their own minority point of view on news will be created when it becomes economically and politically profitable, just as Asians and Hispanics have done in the U.S. markets.

  • 58.
  • At 03:26 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • John R wrote:

If a female television news presenter were so intent on being covered that she wore a veil, perhaps she would do better to seek a career in radio? It seems odd to hide yourself whilst simultaneously putting yourself in front of a camera.

  • 59.
  • At 04:20 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Tajudeen Saheed wrote:

Wearing of Hijab for muslim presenters to my own view has nothing to do with what she reads. We are talking about news that is read with utmost boldness and vivid presentation unlike either phoning programme or the likes. In Nigeria, we have women on our National Television (NTA) that are muslims and they wear headscarf on the network news. So, no big deal.

  • 60.
  • At 04:28 PM on 06 Oct 2006,

You're missing the point...It's the proportion of non whites which are on TV in general which is skewed in favour of the Ethnic communities. In London you may be right but there are 60 million people in the UK. And because the Ethnic minorities kick up more fuss it seems the BBC leans over backward to meet their demands..Why don't you have the Ambassodor of say Saudi Arabia on the programme and ask him why Christians cannot worship in his an example? It's always a one way street mainly because the Brits are so tolerant and accommdating..and the BBC is scared stiff of being non PC. By the way I'm a mongral...father's English..mother Irish...Cheers

I admire Jack Straw for raising the question.

My best pal was from Iraq - an Iraqui Moslem - she fled an abusive husband who was going to kick her out and move in his very young girl-friend. He was going to keep their children. Even her own parents told her children should stay with their father, so, without telling anyone, she brought them with her.

I met her on a course. She was a graduate and better educated than I, and much younger, but I was able to help her with her English and other matters. She always wore western clothes. We visited each other's homes and went out together for coffee etc. Eventually, I signed papers for her and her family to become British citizens.

After finishing the course we lost touch for a while. Then I met her out a few times. It was not the same. She was not wearing the veil but wore the headscarf and no longer wore western clothes. It might have been my fault, but the scarf seemed to cause a barrier between us. I felt it might have ben something to do with her sons now being older and University students. It was just not the same as before. The fun had gone.

I do not know why, as when I was very young, women had to wear hats when they went to church.

  • 62.
  • At 04:56 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Adam Fox wrote:

A lot of interesting comments here, I am a fan both of Newsnight and the BBC and long may it continue, but it is interesting to see how slanted certain aspects of it's culture can be. I have no issue with elitism, in the main as I would want those who make or present programmes to be talented people first and fit into a category second (the same by the way applies to politics). The unholy aspect of this cliqueishness (sorry, ugly word) is that if you live in London socialising with your own kind(not, to be fair, unnatural)tunnel vision is likely. The problem that a lot of posters have refered to is that London is so unlike anywhere else in the UK - just look at the front of the Independant today. I lived in central London for 15 years and used to say to the uninitiated that it is a world capital first and UK second - just look at the victims of the bus bombings. This means to an out-of-Londoner there seems to be a strange bias, promoting 'ethnic' issues and careful of their sensitivities wheras I am sure the London hegemony finds the 'rustics' complaints out of touch and unreal - it's the whole impetus for countyside alliance activity - 'what about us?'.
As to the face covering question, and other 'cultural diversity' issues we need to look more closely at how the arab world treats these issues at home, there is no second (or third) way allowed in most muslim countries. The man in the pink turban startled me when I first saw him, but I concluded that he was just an ostentatious show-off in the manner of Boy George - look at me in a silly hat - so no big deal. If a tv presenter wants to cover their face however, I would say they are seriously conflicted - do they want to be seen or not? If not, then radio is the perfect medium.

  • 63.
  • At 05:25 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • R.George.Paget wrote:

When moving to a new country ,Fit in with their ways, customs, History. Or move back to where you came from!. Dont try to change the culture of your new land...

  • 64.
  • At 05:28 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • ahmed wrote:

it is absoultely diabolically to hear that some of the viewrs were not pleased to watch the jeremy interview school children is simply because the children were not white.. i can personally take the majority of the vierwers are white but that does not mean that only school with white children should be covered ......... it is 21st century and still people are thinking that way wa ashamed thanxs

  • 65.
  • At 05:29 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • nwike wrote:

personally,i'll say there is nothing much in it but it will be strange to billions of people.I belive you facial appearance has a way of sending your message across to people.It'll be difficult for people to keep staring at somebody they can not see the face reading the new to can only be possible in the radio station.
Who knows they can even enter the news room with time bomb.REMEMBER, THIS IS A WORLD WHERE EVERY THING IS POSSIBLE.

  • 66.
  • At 05:44 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • regie from pointe noire wrote:

veils, turbans, headscarfs!!!!!!

The last time I checked, these were accessories!!!!!

In my country there are two types of official (acceptable) attires:

the french suit and the traditional attire.

Some of the head scarfs and wraps the women wear are a lot more uncomfortable and outrageous than veils, turbans or headscarfs!!!

Each country or religion has its own "thing". Thats what makes us different and SPECIAL from others.

  • 67.
  • At 05:46 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

I think the comments on this article have pretty much hit the same political reality that has hit Mr Jack Straw. The majority of the people in this country are sick and fed up by:

1. Muslims winging and whining.

2. The supine response of the BBC to this winging and whining.

Strangely the Sihks don't indulge in the same level of moaning and nobody really bothers that they wear turbans on Newsnight.

  • 68.
  • At 07:01 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • karl wrote:

Martin Luther King, though non-violent, had no TOLERANCE for intolerant attitudes.
How long before women in certain areas of the UK who don't cover their faces have acid thrown over them.
Sounds a little dramatic?
Wait and see!

  • 69.
  • At 07:24 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Angela Hraib wrote:

Lets get our facts straight;Muslim women CHOOSE to wear the veil in all countries apart from Saudi,Iran and Yemen. Many of them prefer not to be leered at by pervy males.In many Muslim countries much greater religious tolerance is shown than here (eg in Syria you can worship in Mosque or church and wear bikinis or full muslim dress without politicians criticising you)If more of our own young girls dressed modestly we might not have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe (a problem Muslim countries don`t have)

  • 70.
  • At 08:34 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • boyd wrote:

I live in Bermuda and look at the news we get from the US as being totally about that country and their views and it is called "World News" Joke there
anyway, opoint is, i look at the BBCfor an hour and listen to it often in the day to get "balance" to the news, try to remember that "the world" is listening. whatever is being reported is important to someone who has little news. in a few years hopefully the world will have moved on and be hearing about lots of non divisive stories
Radio definitely still works for me

  • 71.
  • At 08:36 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Tim Pendry wrote:

The BBC can create its own rules for presenters. To an extent, it has been trapped by its own tormented approach to its public service remit. For years, it has adopted the prevailing PC culture in order to present us with a multicultural vision of the world and, now that the tide is turning, it could be entrapped into accepting populist resentment of difference and start back-tracking on its liberal commitments. None of this would be a problem if the BBC simply remembered that it was a service provider and that there are certain technical issues that suggest that presenters should be smart and their faces should be seen simply out of functional respect for the audience but for no other reason. There is no reason to pander to the prejudices and instincts of the viewership - commercial TV exists to do that job. In practice, I'll lay odds that Sky News gets a regular headscarf before Newsnight does. Once basic technical requirements are met then there is no reason to get anxious about headscarves. If a woman chooses to assert a distinctive cultural identity then that is her business and contains no intrinsic proof of disloyalty or threat. I would hope that Newsnight would have no hesitation in employing a women who wore a headscarf if she was a good journalist even if it exerted the right to refuse someone fully covered as a regular presenter. It is functionally reasonable for the public to see a face but irrelevant to see hair - the facial recognition comes with the job. Some Muslim women may have to accept that many jobs serving the British public may be closed to them if they wish to retain their identity(part of the choice they make) but it has to be a very good and practical argument that has people in power, including editors, and the community at large telling individuals how they must conduct themselves on matters of clothing that are not central to the conduct of their jobs. There are many causes of terrorism - wearing the veil is not one of them. This really is a non-issue and the editorial team must have been a bit bored this morning.

  • 72.
  • At 10:25 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • David L.Stockdale wrote:

Surely Peter barron has missed the point with trying to draw a parallel with the turban and the veil---the turban does not obscure the face!
That was the relevant and valid point that jack Straw was making.

  • 73.
  • At 11:29 PM on 06 Oct 2006,
  • Carollen Mathieu-Crumb wrote:

I get my new from BBC on line because I PUKE on most USA new media. I love PBS, BBC, and NPR but the rest just stink. After reading this opinion I see people of Britian and the USA are the same. I can no longer hope that Britian's "MORAL CONSCIOUS" will stop Americas desier to destory the world. Funny,you go to an Ethnic school once in a Blue moon and everyone screams " how typical " even though it is not. Here in the USA all we Hear is " libral media " . libral media ? We hear zero on the war in Iraq or anyplace else. Constantly hear how wonderful the Conservative republicans are for saveing us form ouselfs & those horrible terriorists.
No presidents to say "there is nothing to fear but fear its self". No! We hear FEAR, FEAR ,HATE WE HAVE SAVED YOU. I would like to see the USA & Britain fight a Hitler type war today. Everyone would run and hide and give away all there libertys rather than fight for them. I could see the American Inquisition and them saying it is for our own good . I am middle age, white , woman so I fit the profile but I do not want the news I can get anyplace. I want to see the world as it is. Wonderfully Ugly with beauty love and hate. I will take care of myself and value my limited freedom. Thank you for takeing me out of my comfort zone.

  • 74.
  • At 08:38 AM on 07 Oct 2006,
  • Marjorie wrote:

Why all the fuss about Headscarves? Remember,Her Majesty,The Queen,used to wear Headscarves,and so did
most of the female population during,and for some years after,WW2.If they are part of a person's
religious beliefs,they should be allowed to wear them,without comment.For goodness'sake,Live and Let Live!!

  • 75.
  • At 08:50 AM on 07 Oct 2006,
  • Marjorie wrote:

Why all the fuss about Headscarves? Remember,Her Majesty,The Queen,used to wear them,an so did most of the female population,during and for some time after,WW2.If they are part of a person's
religious beliefs,they should be able to wear them without comment. For goodness'sake,Live and Let

  • 76.
  • At 01:09 PM on 07 Oct 2006,
  • Aleka Strieker wrote:

If a religion is as dominant and intolerant as Islam is, it jolly well matters a lot What You Wear. I wish Western/Christian tradition had only a pip of the Islamic assertiveness. We would be well advised to adjust quickly or we (or our (grant)children will come to regret it, living in dhimmitude (or an Islamic black hole) as I have come to understand from certain Moroccan circles.
Not a week is now going by without the world having to deal with yet another attack of Muslim mass hysteria. After the insults addressed to my Pope, I am frankly done with it!

  • 77.
  • At 04:11 PM on 07 Oct 2006,
  • Voice of a Muslim Woman wrote:

I am writing this for those people mailing here who believe that muslim women are being forced in some way by ‘men’ to wear hijab /nikaab.

I am a British born professional Muslim woman who has recently started wearing the hijab – the headscarf and the covering of the body apart from the hands and face. I am writing here to say that I resent the fact that some people believe that I and countless Muslim women are being ‘forced’ to wear hijab and/or nikaab. I chose to wear it myself just as I chose to go to the university I went to, just as I chose to go into teaching and just as I make countless other choices in my life. It seems ridiculous to me when some people assume that I have been forced to do it, in fact my family – including the male members- were extremely surprised when I started wearing it as my dress sense was so different before. With the current climate, where Islam has become an ‘issue’, they were also worried about how people would react towards me.
You may be wondering why I chose to wear hijab. Well, ironically it was the media that made me interested in the faith I was born into. I never practised Islam and when I was asked questions about my faith by my friends, who are not Muslims, I knew next to nothing in detail. So I started reading the Quran and its English translation to find out more and in the process its words touched me deeply. Within it I found the verses on hijab and decided to start practising it; although this didn’t happen overnight, it takes a while to be ready to take the plunge. My reasons were very similar to those a nun holds in dressing modestly. My life has changed and remained the same in many ways since then; with the advantage of being knowledgeable in what I say to my friends about my faith over dinner on a Saturday night.
For the interest of those who will still believe I was forced, below are the Quranic verses I read, which apply to men as well:

“O you Children of Adam! We have bestowed on you raiment to cover your shame as well as to be an adornment to you. But the raiment of righteousness, that is the best. Such are among the Signs of Allah, that they may receive admonition.” (Quran 7:26)

“Say to the believing man that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husband,. their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers, or their brothers' sons or their sisters' sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex…” (Quran 24:31).

  • 78.
  • At 09:15 PM on 07 Oct 2006,
  • R G wrote:

In the past other people have come to Britain and settled in seamlessly.
There must be some reason they wish to be in this GREAT country yet when they get here they wish to turn it into that which they left.
If they don't like it - return.
For those born here - INTEGRATE - just because your parents didn't doesn't mean you don't have to.
Kids born in Britain yet English is a 2nd language - absurd!
INTEGRATE! When in Rome. ETC.
Infuriating. Join in or leave.
I'm getting sick of it.

  • 79.
  • At 08:08 PM on 08 Oct 2006,
  • Carmel Egan wrote:

The thing that most grabbed me was how relaxed Jeremy seemed, and that he facilitated an interesting discussion with the students. I wondered whether he had missed his vocation, and might have made a great teacher or youth worker.

To clear up the queries of a number of viewers, I wrote this piece before the news broke of Jack Straw's comments on veils. I was referring to the wearing of headscarves rather than the niqab, which covers everything except the eyes. It may not entirely follow the logic of my argument, but I don't think anyone would seriously argue that the BBC could broadcast the news presented by someone wearing a niqab.

Peter Barron

  • 81.
  • At 07:11 PM on 09 Oct 2006,
  • Cloe Fribourg wrote:

I don't normally comment but this newsnight blogging is starting to get to me...
1. I am horrified to read that viewers complained about the school chosen for Jeremy Paxman's piece. Surely that kind of behaviour is totally besides the point! I thought the debate was interesting in as much as the youngsters touched on just about every important issue there is at the moment. I am not sure whether it was the most profound journalistic piece I have ever seen but the Blue Peter interview was such sickening treacle I was very glad that someone made the effort to produce a more rational one. So thank you Messrs Paxman and Barron for that.
2. As regards the niqab on BBC TV news: to the best of my knowledge the vast majority of women journalists on mainstream Arabic news channels (Aljazeera, Al Arabia, etc.) while sometimes wearing headscarfs do not wear niqabs. I don't see why they should do on BBC TV. If you do not want to be seen by others you shouldn't go into a sector such as television...
3. Viz comment nr.78: [start quote]"In the past people have come to Britain and settled in seamlessly."[end quote] Erm..., which wave of immigration would that have been? Whenever a large number of people with differing opinions, customs and creeds start interacting with each other or immigrate, even if they are of fairly similar cultural origins, there are bound to be tensions on all sides. IN THE PAST this has often lead to civil strife and reprisals, if not war.

i live in the southern philippines where majority of the 17% muslim population live. although i am a christian, i find it comfortable to wear a bandanna during island trips. because the sun's rays are pitiless. we are not so bothered by muslims wearing veils as it is a part of their culture. we accept that uniqueness in them and they respect our christian values too. honestly, i think what we have here is moderate islam. where colorful veils and head gear are in vogue.

  • 83.
  • At 04:02 PM on 10 Oct 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

S Teladia(9) : the point I was making was not that Muslim men in their treatment of women behave as if from the Middle Ages but that many people think that they do so.
Any enlightenment from viewers should be very welcome: especially observations from women.

  • 84.
  • At 10:01 PM on 10 Oct 2006,
  • Bill wrote:

So the BBC would be alright if someone started doing the news who wore a big crucifix around their neck?? Scarves are going to be perceived as a symbol of someones religion. To show a air ob being unbiased, NO symbols or perceived items of religious affiliation should be allowed. If the individual applying for the job doesnt understand that view, then they shouldnt get the job.

  • 85.
  • At 10:06 AM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • Darren Stephens wrote:

It all boils down to practicality. It would be almost impossible for a woman wearing the fuller veils to read the news, as an example, because much communication relies not just on inflection and tone, but on non-verbal cues. What about people who need to lipread? For that reason, it is interesting to consider how female newsreaders and presenters are dressed on middle-eastern television. What are the imperatives there?

And of course, some types of scarves and veils are not designed for the purposes of modesty, but as protection from the elements, as others have mentioned.

As far as I can see, where what you like, but do so in the knowledge that it may hamper or affect your ability to interact with others. In choosing to wear what you do, you must accept that thatr has consequences. This is why, for example, Hardeep Kohli Singh can present Newsnight Review quite easily, though I wonder why he should be exempted from wearing a crash helmet on a motorcycle - after all, a turban is not a great protection from head injury. But then by my own argument, you accept that if, as a sikh, you choose to ride one.

  • 86.
  • At 04:35 PM on 11 Oct 2006,
  • babs enderby wrote:

I am increasingly concerned that the term 'community', once an approachable and warm concept, is now used by muslims to denote something separate from the rest of society. Something that is exclusive.
Surely we are all part of community regardless of our path to God or even our non-path.

  • 87.
  • At 09:00 PM on 12 Oct 2006,
  • Paul D wrote:

Are we not slightly missing the point here? The problem is one of political correctness. All women selection lists for parliamentary candidates, prefential condideration for employment candidates when they come from 'ethnic minorities' and so on.

Surely the bottom line should be the right person for the right job. If a fully veiled muslim reporter can present well and deliver good material, good luck to her and I will support her gladly. If a gainfully employed, able bodied, hetrosexual male causcasian is the best candidate for my constituency, I will support him as well.

This should not be about appearences. It should be about 'horses for courses'.

  • 88.
  • At 11:11 AM on 17 Oct 2006,
  • a great idea wrote:

I think because the niqab prevents people being able to see the expression on womens faces, such as a smile. They could have selective expressions attached with velcro clips to display emotions.

  • 89.
  • At 12:36 AM on 18 Oct 2006,
  • greypolyglot wrote:

It's not something that I would want to do myself but I can't help wondering how the niqab wearing minority would respond if The Naked Rambler were to decide to go for a stroll in their neighbourhood. Would they still maintain that personal attire is a purely personal issue or might they feel that the feelings of the wider community should be respected?

  • 90.
  • At 05:36 PM on 18 Oct 2006,
  • Jack Maclean wrote:

With an increasingly thriving Muslim population in England, to say nothing of an increasingly influential diversity of it's ethnic,racial,and cultural constituent parts, and one which has european countries in it's wake, one would have thought that the hijab and the male counterpart of a white cap and distinctive beard, would already be not infrequent sights on the BBC. And not only presentational but more decisively 'behind the scences' too, where the ethos of the community's committment to the transnational 'Ummah' will bring a vigorously enhanced perspective to News and Current Affairs at the BBC.

It shocks me how intollerent this society is becomming. How we like to point at people and say 'we are better than you because our values are better'. How we devalue peoples spiritual beliefs due to our own ignorance. Isn't it time we started to understand those around us before we comment on them? We are so quick to cry about the 'subjugation' of women who have decided to cover themselves yet we are so slow to point out the oppression of women who feel they have to reveal more of themselves. Isn't it time for us to wake up to the reality that we live in a diverse country. How boring it would be if we were all the same, acted all the same, dressed all the same, ate the same food and decorated our houses the same. The days of 'When in Rome....' are long gone and that is a reality. About time we all woke up and started to understand each others differences.

  • 92.
  • At 05:16 AM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Asake wrote:

Dear Readers,
What i believe in is, whatever your religon, diffrences in culture, we must all learn to tolerate each other , and a word to all migrants , when you get to any country try to learn thier culture and behave as the land demands, even though sometimes too much of everything is bad, but then Oi!!! This England!! Tolerance my dear people, scarf or no scarf, if you are bad you are bad and if you are a good person you are a good person!!!!

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