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UK education authority allows schools to ban Muslim veils

[JURIST] The UK Department of Education and Skills [official website] issued updated school uniform guidelines [backgrounder] Thursday that allow school heads to ban Muslim veils [JURIST news archive] but stopped short of imposing a government ban on religious dress that covers students' faces. A draft version of the guidelines [JURIST report], published in March, proposed allowing schools to ban some religious dress to facilitate education and maintain security on campus. Thursday's guidelines make it clear that the school heads must decide on religious dress bans, rather than offering an automatic right to ban Muslim veils.

In February, the UK High Court denied [JURIST report] an application for judicial review stemming from a 12-year-old Muslim girl's challenge to a public school policy that prevented her from wearing her full-face veil (niqab) [BBC backgrounder] at school. Mr. Justice Silber found the school policy appropriate on the grounds that the veil would dampen teacher interaction, and that the policy fosters a sense of equality among students and could prevent an unwanted visitor from using a veil as a disguise to enter the school undetected by administrators. Also in February, a panel of UK senior judges were reported to have agreed that full Islamic veils should not be worn [JURIST report] in British courts and tribunals, but that individual judges and magistrates should have discretion to allow a full veil to be worn if it did not go against the "interests of justice." Muslim veils and other forms of religious dress [JURIST report] are currently banned from public schools in France and are highly contentious [JURIST reports] in Germany. ANI has more.

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