Muslim women should be permitted to wear the niqab, or face veil, providing it did not interfere with the administration of justice, according to new official guidelines.
The guidance by the Judicial Studies Board’s Equal Treatment Advisory Committee (ETAC) follows a case at an immigration court last November, where a judge ordered an adjournment because he said he was having difficulty hearing legal executive Shabnam Mughal.
In its guidance, the ETAC said forcing a woman to choose between participating in a court case or removing the veil could have a “significant impact on that woman’s sense of dignity” and could serve to “exclude and marginalize.”
Committee chairwoman Justice Cox said that at the heart of the guidance is “the principle that each situation should be considered individually in order to find the best solution in each case.” “We respect the right for Muslim women to choose to wear the niqab as part of their religious beliefs, although the interests of justice remain paramount,” Cox was quoted saying by the Daily Mail newspaper Tuesday.
“If a person’s face is almost fully covered, a judge may have to consider if any steps are required to ensure effective participation and a fair hearingboth for the woman wearing a niqab and for other parties in the proceedings,” she said.