No more purdah in UK schools

published on October 21, 2006

Britain unveils adverse order on Muslim teacher


Muslim teaching assistant in Britain has lost her bid to wear a veil in class with an employment tribunal ruling that the school was within its rights to suspend her from work on the issue.


The ruling against Aishah Azmi marked the latest development in an escalating row over the Islamic veil opened by Leader of the House of Commons Jack Straw.


But the 24-year-old now intends to apply for legal aid to appeal against the decision, if necessary taking her case all the way to the European Court.


In a ruling described as “common sense”, a tribunal threw out the classroom assistant’s claims of discrimination and harassment on religious grounds. She had been suspended from her job as a bilingual support worker for insisting on continuing to wear her full-face veil. Pupils had complained they found it difficult to understand her during lessons because they could not see her lips move.


But in a test case, the employment tribunal in Leeds ruled Headfield Church of England Junior Schools in Dewsbury was within its rights to suspend her from work.


It found that ordering Azmi to remove the veil was a “proportionate means” of ensuring “children received the best possible instruction and assistance in the England language”.


The decision gives schools the right to insist Muslim teaching staff remove their veils. The tribunal, however, backed her victimisation claim on the grounds the school failed to follow proper procedures, awarding Azmi 1,100 pounds




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