Teacher Sues over Right to Wear the Veil

Daily Mail (London), October 14, 2006 | Go to article overview

Teacher Sues over Right to Wear the Veil


Byline: SARAH HARRIS

A MUSLIM teaching assistant is taking legal action after being suspended for insisting on wearing a veil in lessons.

Aishah Azmi, 24, who has a two-year-old daughter, was told she could wear the garment in corridors and the staff room but must remove it when teaching.

Face-to-face communication was deemed essential during her work teaching English as a bilingual support worker.

Children at Headfield Church of England Junior School in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, had said they found it difficult to understand her during lessons because they could not see her lips move.

The British-born Muslim refused to remove the veil, which she wears daily, insisting it was part of her cultural identity. She was suspended pending the outcome of an employment tribunal.

Critics point out that Muslim women are not required to wear a veil in front of young children and can opt to wear a less restrictive headscarf instead.

Jim Dodds, the children's services spokesman for Kirklees Council, yesterday insisted Miss Azmi's suspension was 'nothing to do with religion'.

He added: 'We are simply trying to ensure that our children get the best possible education.' The tribunal heard the case in September and is due to announce its decision within the next few weeks.

The Muslim Council of Britain yesterday confirmed Muslim women are not required to wear a veil in front of young children.

Tahir Alam, chairman of the group's education committee, said: 'It shouldn't be an issue with children. It's only in front of adults that would be the case. They can wear the headscarf and so on.' Shahid Malik, Labour MP for Dewsbury, also backed the school's decision. He said the request for Miss Azmi to remove the veil was 'utterly reasonable' and that 'both the LEA and school have bent over backwards' to accommodate her.

Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said there needs to be a balance between 'respect for religious beliefs and the ability to do a job and communicate clearly'.

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