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UK judges to oppose full Islamic veils in courts

[JURIST] UK senior judges have agreed that full Islamic veils should not be worn in British courts and tribunals, according to a report in Tuesday's London Times. After consulting with legal advisers, a panel of senior judges have included in a set of proposed new court guidelines the preference for Muslim women not to wear the niqab [Wikipedia backgrounder], but have stopped short of prohibiting the garments from the courtroom. Individual judges and magistrates will have the discretion to allow a full veil to be worn if it does not go against the "interests of justice." The new guidelines still have to be finalized by the equal treatment advisory committee of the Judicial Studies Board [official website]. If implemented, it will apply to all persons attending court proceedings, including judges, lawyers, jurors, and witnesses.

In November, the president of the UK Asylum and Immigration Tribunal [official website] told tribunal judges that they should allow Muslim lawyers to wear veils [JURIST report] in their courtrooms unless it interferes with the "interests of justice", as long as their clients approve and all parties to the proceedings can hear the representatives speak. The wearing of Muslim veils in court and in other social settings has been a focus of dispute in several cases recently, reflecting a more general international debate on the place of religious dress [JURIST news archive]. Last month, a Muslim teaching assistant was suspended by a British school [JURIST report] 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. A judge in Pakistan also forbade female lawyers [JURIST report] from wearing veils in courtrooms. The Times has more.

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