Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Moderate Muslims fight back

Who says there's no such thing as a moderate Muslim?

'A Muslim group has offered to help fund a school's legal battle over its refusal to let a pupil wear the niqab (above) in class.

The Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford (Meco) has written to the head teacher to say it is prepared to contribute to a fighting fund. Taj Hargey, Meco's chairman, said he was also willing to organise a campaign among Muslims nationally to resist

"this largely Saudi-driven campaign to make the niqab a compulsory requirement for Muslim women"

Dr Hargey's offer comes as the school, which cannot be identified because of a court order, faces the prospect of an expensive legal fight without any backing. Buckinghamshire county council, the local authority for the school, is unwilling to underwrite a challenge which it believes could cost as much as £500,000.

A court on Thursday is due to decide whether the school's decision not to allow the pupil, aged 12, to wear the veil should go to a full judicial review. The school, which already allows girls to wear head scarves called hijabs, drew the line at the niqab, which covers the whole face except the eyes. It is insisting that the family accepts the uniform policy but the father has been given legal aid to fight a human rights case.

Last year the law lords ruled that a school in Luton, Beds, was justified in barring Shabina Begum from wearing a jilbab, a long loose gown, to classes but it took a long and expensive legal fight. The judges made clear that their ruling applied only to the Luton case and it is unclear whether other courts will consider the judgment to have established case law.

If the court allows the case to proceed, the school may be forced to back down, potentially rendering any policy on uniform unenforceable at any school threatened with legal action.
The case is complicated because the girl's sisters were allowed to wear the niqab when a different head was in charge. A new policy has been introduced which the father is challenging. The girl has not been excluded, but has been out of school since early October.
In his letter to the school, Dr Hargey said the father's insistence on his daughter wearing the niqab was a

"non-Islamic imposition upon your institution"

He added: "We are strongly committed to offering you our full and unequivocal support in banning face-masks at school. We trust that you will continue to resist any move to implement this kind of minority ethnic obsession, which has no foundation whatsoever in the transcendent sources of Islamic law."
Dr Hargey said that since the school's dress code already allowed the option for Muslim girls to wear the hijab, there was no need for full-face covering.'

Good for you, Dr. Hargey. And shame on you, Buckingham County Council.