Posted on October 20, 2006

U.K. Teacher Suspended For Wearing Veil Wins Victimization Suit

AP, Oct. 19, 2006

Thursday against her school.

But Aishah Azmi, 24, who had insisted on wearing a niqab — a veil that leaves only her eyes visible — during lessons, lost two key claims of discrimination and harassment against the employer.

Her case had become the center of a wide-ranging debate over the decision of some Muslim women to wear full veils and the participation of religious groups in British society. Reacting to the case on Tuesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair called the religious dress a “mark of separation.”


Azmi acknowledged that she had not worn her veil during an interview for the job, assisting children who speak English as a second language.

An employment tribunal awarded her $1,870 for injury to her feelings following her victimization at the school. However the tribunal panel rejected allegations she had been subjected to direct and indirect discrimination and harassment.


“Muslim women who wear the veil are not aliens, and politicians need to recognize that what they say can have a very dangerous impact on the lives of the minorities they treat as outcasts,” Azmi said. “Integration requires people like me to be in the workplace so that people can see that we are not to be feared or mistrusted.”

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk is in favour of imposing a ban on the wearing of a burka in public spaces.

The Liberal VVD told MPs on Thursday night the face-covering clothing is a symbol of division (between the West and Islam) and was not in harmony with the integration of Muslims and the emancipation of women.

But Christian Democrat CDA Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin refused to confirm after the parliamentary debate whether he supported Verdonk’s proposal, stressing that now was not the time for differences in opinions between ministers.

However, Hirsch Ballin also said Verdonk was speaking from an integration perspective, while the commission of seven experts that was advising the Cabinet about a possible burka ban had a broader focus.

The commission will need to balance the constitutional rights of citizens against the public opposition against the burka. How the Islamic community views the burka will also need to be assessed.

The commission — which includes lawyers, an Arabist and an imam — must issue recommendations to government ministers at the start of November. The Cabinet will then make a decision, Verdonk said.

One of the options being studied is whether a general ban on the burka is possible under current regulations. It will then also be assessed whether a ban wearing a burka can be justified based on issues of safety and public order.

The final option is whether a ban can be imposed via existing regulations such as a general local ordinance or compulsory identification laws.

Government ministers had been called back to the Parliament to explain why they had not yet imposed a ban on the burka, as demanded by MPs in December at the initiative of Geert Wilders. It had previously been revealed that the cabinet was divided over the issue.