Tony Blair has agreed that Muslims wearing veils is a "mark of separation" in society.
In his first monthly press conference since Jack Straw sparked a row over the role of Muslims in the UK, the prime minister was repeatedly asked about veils, faith schools and extremism.
"I think we need to have this debate in a sensitive way but as well as being about people preserving their distinctive identity it also about how people integrate into British society.
"It is important that people who come to this country learn English, for example.
"It is about getting the balance right and we need to have the debate in a sensible and serious way and even though people would not have chosen for the debate to have been started in this way it is a debate we need to have".
Asked whether the veil was a barrier to integration, Blair said: "It is a mark of separation and that is why people from outside the Muslim community feel uncomfortable.
"No-one wants to say that people don't have the right to do it that would be taking it too far but we do need to confront this issue of how we fully integrate people into this society.
"All the evidence is that people who do integrate do achieve more.
"The debate about the veil is part of a broader question of how we make sure that the Muslim community integrates with British society in circumstances where the majority where of the Muslim community do." [Link]
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