A court has banned details from being published, so Neil Sears's report in London's Daily Mail, "Muslim father gets legal aid to fight school over veil ban," has only the outlines of the case: A Muslim Pakistani father wishes his 12-year-old daughter to wear a niqab to her Buckinghamshire school, just as her three elder sisters did when they attended the same school. While the school permits Muslim girls to wear hijabs, a new school head rejected the niqab because teachers believe it will impede communication and learning. As one source explained: "The school feels it would be inappropriate to allow the veil because it could bring difficulties interacting with the girl, especially in lessons like drama. The teachers are also concerned they would not be able to see whether or not she has understood something if they cannot see her face."
The girl apparently tried to attend school in niqab in September 2006, but was sent home and has not attended school since October. Efforts to reach a compromise have failed. Despite the precedent set when the Law Lords ruled that a school in Luton was justified in barring Shabina Begum from wearing a jilbab – which at least shows the face – the 12-year-old's father seeks a judicial review of the situation by London's High Court, maintaining that the ban infringes of his daughter's human rights.
So far, it's almost business as usual; I even maintain a weblog entry titled "Niqabs in the Classroom?" But where this case diverges from the norm is that the father appears to be receiving legal aid for his case; and the school authorities appear ready to give in to him because of their worry how much litigation would cost, as much as £500,000. The Begum case, for example, was long and expensive. One source explained: "With 250 other schools in the area and severe cuts to the social care budget, it would be inappropriate to spend taxpayers' money on this."
Comment: So, taxpayers are providing legal aid to the father, while the government schools lack the funds to resist his challenge. This little drama symbolizes the Londonistan predicament. (January 22, 2007)
Feb. 6, 2007 update: In a surprising development, the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford (MECO) has offered to help the school stave off the niqab, reports Philip Johnston of London's Daily Telegraph. In his letter to the school, MECO's chairman, Taj Hargey, called the father's insistence a "non-Islamic imposition upon your institution. … We are strongly committed to offering you our full and unequivocal support in banning face-masks at school. We trust that you will continue to resist any move to implement this kind of minority ethnic obsession, which has no foundation whatsoever in the transcendent sources of Islamic law." Hargey also offered to organize a national Muslim campaign to resist "this largely Saudi-driven campaign to make the niqab a compulsory requirement for Muslim women."
Comment: (1) It would be remarkable if Muslims provided the funds to keep niqabs out of British classrooms. (2) Moderate Muslims truly have a crucial role to play in the crushing of radical Islam.