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Prescott backs right to wear veil

Link: BBC NEWS | Politics | Prescott backs right to wear veil.

Thirty-odd years ago, I was one of two supporting actors in a touring youth theatre production who wore masks throughout our performances. We developed a cruel game (we were just 17 and pulling legs off insects had only recently ceased to be amusing). From offstage, before our longest scene together, we would pick the prettiest girl in the audience. During that scene as we stood, masked, flanking the leading man, we would both fix our gazes on her.

The scene lasted about 15 minutes. No girl lasted more than 5. They all had to leave the theatre. I am sure they could not have said why, but they found it profoundly disturbing. Perhaps, in those cultures where full veils are routinely worn, it is not disturbing to be looked at from behind a mask. In our culture, it is.

Civilised Britons have proved themselves more than willing to respect the customs from other cultures brought to our country by immigrants. We have gone to far greater lengths to do so than perhaps any other nation. The point Jack Straw is making; very gently, very carefully, is that British citizens from those other cultures have a reciprocal duty to respect ours. I made that point yesterday on a British Muslim blog, only to be told - in effect - that we have no culture to respect. Charming.

Excuse me while I paint a "behead all those who disrespect British culture" banner, and retire, ululating my discontentment, to Trafalgar Square. Not.