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UK Muslim lawyers win right to wear veil in court : Another step towards Londonistan

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Submitted by Life Inter (India), Nov 11, 2006 at 22:15

UK Muslim lawyers win right to wear veil in court : Another step towards Londonistan :

UK Muslim lawyers win right to wear veil in court
11/10/2006 11:30:00 AM GMT


Muslim female lawyers can wear the full-face veil, or Niqab, in the courtroom as long as it doesn't prevent them from being heard, the head of a network of British immigration courts ruled on Thursday, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The ruling by Sir Henry Hodge, head of the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, comes days after a veiled Muslim lawyer refused to remove her Niqab at the request of an immigration judge at a hearing in Stoke-in-Trent, central England.

Judge George Glossop had asked Muslim lawyer Shabnam Mughal, 27, to remove her veil during an immigration hearing last Monday, claiming that he couldn't hear properly.

But Mughal, who had appeared at a number of hearings wearing the Niqab, refused to take off her veil, insisting that removing it is against her religious beliefs and that she had the right to wear it during the immigration hearing last Monday.

Judge Glossop then adjourned the hearing until next week and asked Sir Hodge, Britain 's most senior immigration judge, to issue a decision about how to resolve the courtroom stand-off.

On Thursday, Sir Hodge ruled that legal representatives should be allowed to wear the veil because "it is important to be sensitive in such cases".

"The representative in the recent case has appeared veiled previously at hearings without difficulties," he said.

"The presumption is that if a representative before a tribunal wishes to wear a veil, has the agreement of his or her client and can be heard reasonably clearly by all parties to the proceedings, then the representative should be allowed to do so," Sir Hodge added.

Sir Hodge's ruling is only temporary until a full declaration from the Judicial Studies Board, which issues advice to judges on questions of race and faith equality.

Javid Hussain, the practice manager at Coventry Law Partnership - where Miss Mughal works – said after Thursday's ruling: "It doesn't appear to be a permanent ruling. It looks like he has left it up to whichever judge is sitting on each case and has left the door open."

"Mr. Justice Hodge seems to be saying that the tribunal chairman was within his rights to ask for the removal of the veil…In a way, we find that disappointing and would have preferred it to be clearer and more supportive of our employee." Hussain added.

Mughal's case fuels a fierce debate in Britain over the right of Muslim women to wear the full-face veil.

Last month, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described the Niqab as a "visible statement of separation", and said that he asks veiled women who visit his office to take off their veils.

Shortly afterwards, a Muslim teaching assistant in northern England lost a claim of discrimination and harassment against Kirklees Council, West Yorkshire, which said that she must remove her Niqab in the classroom.

Prime Minister Tony Blair eventually joined the debate by saying that the Niqab is a "mark of separation", and that veiled women make others feel "uncomfortable".

Trevor Phillips, the head of Britain 's race relations watchdog, the Commission for Racial Equality, warned that the debate was growing ugly and could trigger riots.

He said Britons were becoming increasingly polarized along racial and religious lines, and risk fueling unrest if they don't discuss their differences respectfully.

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