Straw and the Veil
Politaholic broadly agrees with Straw's comments on the niqab (the Muslim veil that covers the face). Straw isn't saying that Muslim women should not have the right to wear the niqab; that would be ridiculous. But he is saying he would prefer that they didn't because it impedes communication and signals what might be called a segregationist intent (to shut oneself off). To show ones face to others is a minimum courtesy. The message the veil gives is: "I dislike and distrust you, and I do so to such an extent that I refuse to show you my face". Facial gestures - smiles, grimaces, etc - are also an important part of human communication. The veil says "I don't want to communicate with you". Finally, whatever Muslim women who wear the veil say about it being their own choice it is obvious to me that it is a symbol of the lesser status of women as compared to men (especially when the veiled women walk several paces behind their menfolk).