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UK lawyer refuses to remove Muslim veil in court

[JURIST] A British immigration judge Wednesday adjourned a hearing after a lawyer in his courtroom refused to remove her Muslim niqab [Wikipedia backgrounder] despite being ordered to by the judge because he claimed he could not hear her speak. Shabnam Mughal refused to take off the black veil covering all but her eyes, telling the judge it would be a violation of her religious beliefs. Judge George Glossop is seeking advice from Sir Henry Hodge, the president of the UK Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, to determine what steps he should take since the tribunal has not encountered a similar situation before.

Mughal's decision to keep her veil on is just one of the religious dress [JURIST news archive] cases currently being debated in the UK. Last month, a Muslim teaching assistant was suspended by a British school for refusing to remove her niqab after being told that her pupils were less likely to understand her when she spoke from behind her veil. She is currently appealing [JURIST report] that decision. Earlier this year, the UK House of Lords [official website] ruled [text; JURIST report] in favor of a high school's decision banning a Muslim teenage girl from wearing a jilbab [Wikipedia backgrounder], a long garment that covers the entire body other than the face and hands, at school. The chairman of the UK Commission for Racial Equality has warned [JURIST report] that riots could erupt over the religious dress debate and has called for improved communications about social differences. In the US, a Michigan woman had her small claims case dismissed [AP report] after she refused to refuse her veil while testifying. The judge in that case said he needed to see a witness' face in order to properly assess their credibility. AP has more.

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