TONY Blair has backed Kirklees Council for suspending a Muslim teaching assistant when she refused to remove her veil during lessons.
The Prime Minister said he could "see the reason" why Kirklees had suspended Aishah Azmi.
At his monthly Downing Street press conference, he said the question of school staff wearing the veil should be a matter for the education authority.
He said: "They should be allowed to take that decision."
But he added: "I do support the authority in the way that they have handled this."
Asked whether he specifically backed the teaching assistant's suspension from Headfield Church of England Junior School in Dewsbury, he added: "I simply say that I back their handling of the case.
"I can see the reason why they came to the decision they did."
The Premier said the veil row was part of a bigger debate about the way that the Muslim community integrates into British society.
"Difficult though these issues are, they need to be raised and confronted," he said.
Mr Blair said there was also an issue, apparent across Europe, about how Islam "comes to terms and is comfortable with" the modern world.
"We have to deal with the debate," he said. "People want to know that the Muslim community in particular, but actually all minority communities, have got the balance right between integration and multi-culturalism."
Mr Blair echoed Jack Straw's comment which sparked the current controversy that the wearing of the veil was a visible statement of separation.
"It is a mark of separation and that is why it makes other people from outside the community uncomfortable," he said.
"No-one wants to say that people don't have the right to do it. That is to take it too far. But I think we need to confront this issue about how we integrate people properly into our society."
Mr Blair accepted that the issue of faith schools was a "difficult one for the Government".
Education Secretary Alan Johnson is to change the law to allow local councils to force new schools to accept up to a quarter of its pupils from other or no religions.
It has been interpreted as being targeted at Muslim schools as they form the bulk of new schools in the pipeline.
The Prime Minister pointed out that it was his decision to end the ban on Muslim faith schools in the first place.
"We would not be having this debate were it not for people's concerns about this question to do with integration and separation of the Muslim community."