A British government minister says a Muslim teaching assistant in northern England should be fired for refusing to remove her face veil at school.

Local Government and Community Cohesion Minister Phil Woolas said the decision of the 24-year-old to wear a veil while teaching made it impossible for her to perform her duties. His comments were reported in the Sunday Mirror newspaper.

The increasingly fervent public debate over Islamic integration in Britain began earlier this month, when former foreign secretary and now House of Commons leader Jack Straw said Muslim women visiting his office should first remove their veils.

Last week, Prime Minister Tony Blair publicly backed Straw, saying Straw was seeking to ensure the integration of people from different cultures into mainstream British society.

Muslim leaders have denounced the comments and criticized politicians and the media for allegedly demonizing Britain's Muslim community.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.