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UK teaching aide to appeal tribunal ruling on Muslim veil suspension

[JURIST] A lawyer for a Muslim teaching assistant suspended by a British school for refusing to remove her full-face veil (niqab; Wikipedia backgrounder) during class said Friday she planned to appeal [BBC recorded audio] a local tribunal's decision to the European Court of Justice [official website]. The Kirklees West Yorkshire Council [official website] employment tribunal on Thursday rejected discrimination and harassment claims [press release] brought by the teaching assistant, Aishah Azmi [BBC profile], but awarded her £1,100 (about US $2,100) for "injury to her feelings" caused by local education authority's handling of her complaint. The tribunal agreed with school officials' assessment that the veil interfered with Azmi's role as a bilingual support worker by making her speech difficult for pupils to understand. Azmi remains suspended with pay pending her appeal.

Prominent politicians have voiced support for the school's decision. Prime Minister Tony Blair called the veil a "mark of separation" [press briefing summary], while Labor MP Shahid Malik [Wikipedia profile], a Muslim whose constituency includes the school, urged Azmi "just to let this thing go." BBC News has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

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