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UK College Reverses Niqab Ban

Published: 14/09/2013 12:18:30 PM GMT
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CAIRO - UK Muslims have welcomed a leading British college's decision to lift a ban on Muslim face-veils after a petition calling for the dropping of the ban gathered thousands of signatures. This change in policy is enorm (more)

CAIRO - UK Muslims have welcomed a leading British college's decision to lift a ban on Muslim face-veils after a petition calling for the dropping of the ban gathered thousands of signatures.

"This change in policy is enormously welcome,” Birmingham Ladywood Labour MP Shabana Mahmood told Huffington Post.

“The college has made a wise decision to rethink its policy on banning veils for a group of women who would have potentially been excluded from education and skills training at the college had the ban been enforced.

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"My thanks go out to all those who backed the campaign," Mahmood added.

Earlier this week, the Birmingham Metropolitan College issued a new decision banning all students from wearing hoodies, hats, caps and veils while on the premises.

The decision sparked angry reactions from Muslim students, considering the decision as discriminatory against their personal freedoms.

Later on, opposition culminated against the decision, sparking protests, with 9,000 students signing an online petition set up by NUS Black Students' Campaign calling on the college's principal Dr Christine Braddock to remove the ban.

Faced with a huge opposition, the college said on Facebook on Thursday night that it will drop the ban.

"Birmingham Metropolitan College is committed to high quality education for all of our learners,” the statement said.

"We are concerned that recent media attention is detracting from our core mission of providing high quality learning.

"As a consequence, we will modify our policies to allow individuals to wear specific items of personal clothing to reflect their cultural values.

"The college will still need to be able to confirm an individual's identity in order to maintain safeguarding and security.

"The necessity to comply with national regulations, examination board requirements and applicable legislation will remain an overriding priority in all circumstances, as will the need to ensure that effective teaching and learning methodologies are applied.

"We have listened to the views of our students and we are confident that this modification to our policies will meet the needs of all of our learners and stakeholders.

"We remain committed to ensuring that students are provided with a safe and welcoming environment and the best education and training opportunities available."


The college's decision to drop the ban followed a split in ideas expressed by British Premier and his deputy.

A spokesman for David Cameron had earlier said the Prime Minister believed schools should be able to set their own uniform policies.

"The point I would make on this is that we back schools being able to set and enforce their own school uniform policies," he said, The BBC reported.

But Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he was "uneasy" about a ban.

"I can totally understand, of course, if you're passing through security checks at airports, say, of course for those reasons you need to make sure that the security staff can do their job,” Clegg said to his LBC radio phone-in show.

"I can totally understand in the classroom, this is more about full veils, that you want to be able to make contact, certainly eye contact and face contact with your pupils.

"But as a general principle, other than those rather exceptional circumstances, I'm really quite uneasy about anyone being told what they have to wear and I certainly would need to understand why.

"I think I've set the bar very high to justify something like that because one of the things that is great about our country is that we are diverse, we are tolerant."

While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil.

Scholars believe it is up to women to decide whether to take on the veil or burqa, a loose outfit covering the whole body from head to toe and wore by some Muslim women.

Niqab is already at the center of a heated debate raging across Britain, which is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.

The disclosure comes as proposals to ban face coverings in public places are being debated in parliament.

A private members bill proposed by Philip Hollobone, the Conservative MP for Kettering, would make it an offence for someone to wear “a garment or other object” intended primarily to obscure their face, in public.

Jack Straw, the Labour former foreign secretary, has first sparked the niqab controversy in 2006 after asking Muslim constituents to show their faces if they wanted to meet him.

Reproduced with permission from