This is either a bad lapse of journalistic standards, or an outrageous piece of politics: this article reports that Alan Johnson views Muslim veils as a threat to the "safety and security" of teachers, but omits to provide a single example of how the garment might potentially be unsafe or dangerous. Is Mr Johnson perhaps worried about the danger of sparks flying from nylon-based veils? I think we should be told.
Elsewhere a completely different story is being told. Dr Tag Hargey explained that "When you conceal the face, that actually not only
dehumanises the person involved, but also creates a chasm, a gap, a
bridge of non-understanding between communities and I think the sooner
we can get rid of this veil, this face veiling, this face masking in
Muslim societies across Britain, so much the better." Suddenly we are talking about a different policy all together.
Why such policies are introduced is surely as crucial as whether they are introduced. The French have their argument and Jack Straw had his (which I was inclined to agree with). But without so much as an anecdote in defence of his argument, Johnson simply ends up looking paranoid in the extreme, and making this government appear even more obsessed with its Panoptical power to watch without being watched.
Lets be clear. Protection of 'safety' involves minimisation of certain known risks. Protection of 'security' involves defence against certain known attackers. In what sense does a veil undermine either? This isn't a rhetorical question; Johnson ought to be able to answer it if he's to use this language.