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.

 

Serious challenges for Arab leaders in Amman

US, allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Tributes flood in for anti-apartheid hero Ahmed Kathrada

Tunisians demand Muslim marriage decree revoked

Historic Casablanca buildings crumbling in silence

UN says over 300 civilians killed since start of west Mosul offensive

Disputed Iraqi province votes to fly Kurdish flag

Germany laments Turkey's 'unacceptable' spying

Syria opposition says no peace deal without US role

Turkey sends delegation to UK over electronics ban

UN chief urges Arab leaders to confront Syria war

Carlos the Jackal sentenced to life for Paris bombing

Arab League set to oppose Trump Israel embassy shift

US vows to never allow 'Israel-bashing' at UN

Netanyahu ban on MP visits to flashpoint holy site challenged

IS launches counter-attack to defend north Syria town

Saudi intercepts four ‘smuggled’ Yemen rebel missiles

Saudi to set up investment fund to help Jordan

Iran slams Bahrain terror cell claims as ‘delusional’

UN says 30 million unsure of next meal in MENA region

Putin to meet Iran President in Moscow

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

Germany’s Turks cast early ballots for Erdogan referendum

German court convicts Pakistani of spying for Iran

Qatar to invest £5bn in UK within five years

'Kill Erdogan' banner probed in Switzerland, Turkey

Arab League chief urges resolution to Syria conflict

Israel arrests 22 ultra-Orthodox sex offenders

Syrian forces pause offensive on IS-held dam for repairs

Dubai's Emaar Malls offers $800m to buy Souq.com

Iraq launches fresh Mosul Old City advance

US-backed fighters battle IS near north Syria town

Hamas partially reopens Beit Hanoun crossing

Iraq investigates Mosul civilian deaths

In Algeria, everyone wants to be MP, few likely to vote

Yemeni rebel supporters flood streets on conflict’s anniversary

Syria fighting damages IS-held dam posing rising water risk

Iran to symbolically sanction 15 US companies

Iran to appeal seizure of 9/11 compensation money

Hamas shuts Gaza crossing after assassination of official

Deep concern as Israeli laws entrench the occupation

Turkey’s Kurds could sway tight referendum vote

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

US and allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Israel’s air strike on Syria spooks Middle East