CAIRO - In an unprecedented ruling in Britain, a Muslim woman was barred from serving on a jury for refusing to take off her face-veil (niqab), The Daily Mail reported Tuesday, March 20.
I wonder whether I can address the lady who is veiled, Judge Aidan Marron QC said.
The Muslim woman was to take the oath in a case at Blackfriars Crown Court in London when the judge asked her to remove her face-veil.
Would you prefer not to remove your veil in this particular case?, Judge Marron asked the Muslim woman.
Yes, the woman replied.
But the judge replied that it was desirable if she removed her face-veil in this case.
So I'm going to invite you to stand down. I hope you understand.
The ruling is unprecedented in British courts as official guidelines allow the wearing of veils in court.
According to guidelines from the Judicial Studies Board's equality advisory committee in 2007, Muslim women should be allowed to serve while wearing the veil as long as it did not interfere with the administration of justice.
"Each situation should be considered individually in order to find the best solution in each case," the guidelines said.
The committee warned that forcing a woman to choose between participating in a court case and removing her veil could have a significant impact on that woman's sense of dignity and serve to exclude and marginalize her.
The guidelines also say a judge may wish to consider excusing jurors in niqabs if a challenge is made by one of the parties, provided there is a genuine basis for the objection.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.5 million.
The unprecedented ruling has sparked outrage among British Muslims.
This is totally unacceptable, Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said.
I really can't understand why facial expressions could have any impact on the judge, the judgment or anyone else in a trial. It has no relevance.
He warned that the ruling reflects prejudice against veiled Muslim women.
I'm speechless that you can exclude someone on the basis of the way that they dress, he said.
It's very worrying that a judge is being prejudiced against women wearing a veil.
The face-veil, or niqab, has become the center of a heated debate across Europe in recent years.
The face-veil is a garment worn by some Muslim women that is often black, and covers the face but leaves the eyes uncovered.
The garment is already banned in France, Belgium and a city in Spain.
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 veil.Scholars, however, believe that it is up to women to decide whether to take on the face veil.