First Published: 2005-03-02

 
British Muslim girl wins court case for wearing jilbab
 

High Court in London says Shabina Begum has been unfairly excluded from school for wearing jilbab.

 

Middle East Online

By Peter Walker - LONDON

A major boost for British Muslim girls

A British Muslim girl on Wednesday won a long legal battle to force her school to let her wear traditional full-length Islamic dress in class, a case reflecting similar debates elsewhere in Europe.

In a verdict with potentially far-reaching implications, the High Court in London said that Shabina Begum, 16, had been unfairly excluded from the school for wearing the garment known as the jilbab.

Denbigh High School in Luton, north of London, had also denied Begum - who was represented by Cherie Blair, the lawyer wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair - the right to practise her religious beliefs, the court ruled.

"Today's decision is a victory for all Muslims who wish to preserve their identity and values despite prejudice and bigotry," Begum, who now attends another school where the jilbab is permitted, said outside the court.

"It is amazing that in the so-called free world I have to fight to wear this attire. This amazement has not been left unnoticed in my community, the Muslim community, who see a concerted effort to dehumanise Muslims and vilify Islam."

The award-winning school, 80 percent of whose pupils are Muslims, had argued the decision was made purely because a flowing jilbab was a considered a safety risk, and that female Muslim pupils had plenty of other choices of attire.

The High Court battle, which closely echoed controversy over a French government decision to ban "conspicuous" religious insignia such as Islamic headscarves in schools, saw an initial ruling in the school's favour last June.

However, presiding judge Lord Justice Henry Brooke reversed this judgement on Wednesday, also calling for the Department of Education to advise schools on how to comply with their obligations under the Human Rights Act.

"The school undoubtedly did exclude the claimant. They told her, in effect: 'Go away, and do not come back unless you are wearing proper school uniform'," he said.

The Muslim Council of Britain hailed the decision as "very important", noting that opinion on proper attire for Muslim women varied greatly.

"Within this broad spectrum those that believe and choose to wear the jilbab and consider it to be part of their faith requirement for modest attire should be respected," secretary general Iqbal Sacranie said.

"Today's judgement is a clear reflection of that common-sense approach."

The court had heard that Begum, an academically strong pupil of Bangladeshi origin who hoped to become a doctor, had previously worn a shalwar kameez, a traditional South Asian form of attire comprising trousers under a dress-length tunic.

But having developed a deepening interest in Islam, Begum arrived at the start of the academic year in September 2002 wearing a jilbab, was told to go home and change, and refused.

Denbigh School's lawyers argued that she could have worn skirts, trousers or a shalwar kameez, and that by being the only pupil to insist on wearing the jilbab had effectively chosen to stay away.

During an appeal in December, prominent civil rights lawyer Blair - who uses her maiden name Cherie Booth in her professional life - argued that the girl's rights had been infringed.

"Her rights to manifest her religious beliefs should be respected," said Blair.

"I say our policy is to respect diversity, and it is not for the public authority to judge which beliefs are more valid than others," she said.

 

US, Iranian top diplomats confront each other for first time

Moscow accuses US of hitting Syrian regime forces

Turkey, Iran and Iraq make joint threat against Kurd vote

Thousands of Huthi supporters mark 3 years since Sanaa takeover

Gemstone purchase essential for Najaf pilgrims

UN sets up probe of IS war crimes in Iraq

Air strikes kill 22 civilians in northwest Syria in 48 hours

Iranian supreme leader lashes out at Trump UN speech

Iraq attacks all remaining IS territory at once

Turkey jails lawyers representing hunger striking teachers

Syrian Kurds to hold first local elections in federal push

Qatari expats lauded as statesmen by Arab critics

Shipwreck off Libyan coast leaves over 100 migrants missing

Will Turkey’s opposition to Kurdish state translate into action?

US ups the ante on Iraq Kurds

Macron: Iran nuclear deal no longer enough

Trump’s mind made up on Iran but refuses to divulge

Scores of Iraqis missing during war against ISIS

Netanyahu rejects calls for mixed gender worship at Western Wall

Russia accuses US of missile treaty breach

Iran TV translator mocked for watering down Trump speech

Saudi Arabia hopes Kurdish referendum will not take place

Saudi invites women to sports stadium for first time

Saudi set to create $2.7 billion investment company

Humanitarian disaster grips Yemen three years since Houthi takeover

What will become of Iraq’s Hawija after ISIS?

Multi-ethnic Kirkuk tense ahead of referendum

UN awaits Iran’s defence against Trump nuclear deal threats

US-backed SDF seizes 90% of Syria's Raqa

Man hanged in Iran for rape, murder of child

Saudi to lift ban on internet phone calls

Sisi calls for peace, co-existence in Mideast

Erdogan demands Iraqi Kurds call off referendum

US looking to revisit Iran nuclear deal

Trump expects Gulf dispute to be resolved quickly

Bashir calls on Darfur displaced to return

Saudi Aramco could release accounts in early 2018

Saudi-led coalition says rebels hindering Yemen food imports

Jihadist activity prompts regime, Russian air strikes in Syria safe zone

Two prominent rights activists arrested in Saudi Arabia

Israel shoots down Hezbollah drone over Golan Heights

Iraqi forces launch assault on IS in western Anbar province

Families of the missing, the forgotten victims of war in Lebanon

25 killed in South Sudan clashes

Suicide attack on Iraq restaurant kills three