“Freedom for all, except Muslims,” Mirko Bagaric wrote in Crikey yesterday. “That’s the message that Muslims are rightly taking from what British Prime Minister Tony Blair has called a worldwide debate on the wearing of face veils by Muslim women.”

Such timing. The Australian leads today with the claim Australia’s most senior Muslim cleric, Sheik al-Taj al-Din al-Hilaly, has blamed immodestly dressed women who don’t wear Islamic headdress for being preyed on by men and likened them to abandoned “meat” that attracts voracious animals.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward says Hilaly should be sacked and deported. She calls his comments “incitement to a crime”. Peter Costello says they are “totally unacceptable”.

Is it safer to wear the veil? We already shroud our views because of political correctness, some commentators would say. In its 50th anniversary editorial, Quadrant magazine calls this “a form of censorship not by state or church authority but by bullying”:

Few amongst us would have any problems in refraining from racist or sexist abuse—but discussion of real problems and issues is not such a thing. Any more than discussion of the issues raised by militant Islam for modern society; and of course terrorism is one aspect of this. Here is yet another inversion of earlier modes of discourse. These days it seems acceptable in the media and among the progressivists to denigrate Christianity, in general or in specific forms. Thus we see constant reference to the “Christian Right”. But such specific reference to any aspect of Muslim life would be reproved as evidence of “stereotyping”—another of the sins against political correctness. We all hope that Muslims of all kinds in Australia will integrate, as past influxes of religious minorities have done. It remains foolish to forbid discussion of any specific issues.

In the current issue of the New Statesman, columnist Martin Bright writes on the veil issue and Minister for Communities, Ruth Kelly:

Her speech on 11 October to groups representing British Muslims was a wake-up call not just to them, but to Britain at large. “This is a shared problem. It is a shared battle for the kind of society we want to be and the values that we all hold dear,” she said…

The Muslim Council of Britain will receive no more state funding, she says, until it can show that it shares the common values of a democratic society: freedom of speech, equality of opportunity, tolerance, and respect for the rule of law. The MCB’s boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day, its dismissal of certain Muslim minority groups and the ambiguous attitude of its leaders to suicide bombing will no longer, it seems, be tolerated in Whitehall.

Exactly. This isn’t a question of rights. It’s a question of values, which values we support – those of Western secular liberal democracy or those of the caliphate.