Teaching assistant sacked for refusing to remove veil

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The Independent Online

A Muslim teaching assistant who was suspended for refusing to remove her veil in the classroom has been sacked.











Aishah Azmi, 24, of Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, was suspended on full pay earlier this year by Kirklees Council and has now been sacked, sources said.

Last month, an employment tribunal dismissed three of Mrs Azmi's claims of discrimination and harassment but found that she was victimised by Headfield Church of England Junior School in Dewsbury and awarded her £1,000 for "injury to feelings".

A Kirklees Council spokesman said he could not comment on Mrs Azmi's employment status due to confidentiality rules.

Mrs Azmi's lawyer Nick Whittingham, of the Kirklees Law Centre, said the local education authority were involved in a disciplinary process against her but he was not aware that any decision had been reached.



Mrs Azmi said she was willing to remove her veil in front of children - but not when male colleagues were present.

Her case sparked a national debate on multiculturalism in Britain.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said the veil row was part of a necessary debate about the way the Muslim community integrates into British society and said the veil was a "mark of separation" which makes people of other ethnic backgrounds feel uncomfortable.

The intervention by a series of politicians, which culminated in Mr Blair's remarks, were criticised both by the tribunal and Muslim community leaders.

The tribunal report said it was "most unfortunate" that politicians had made comments on the case which were sub judice.

The debate was sparked by the Leader of the House of Commons, Jack Straw, when he said that the wearing of full veils - or niqab - made community relations more difficult.

The Government's Race Minister, Phil Woolas, demanded Mrs Azmi be sacked, accusing her of "denying the right of children to a full education" because her stand meant she could not "do her job" and insisted that barring men from working with her would amount to "sexual discrimination".

And shadow home secretary David Davis launched a stinging attack on Muslim leaders for risking "voluntary apartheid" in Britain, and allegedly expecting special protection from criticism.

Last month, Labour MP Shahid Malik, who represents Mrs Azmi's home town of Dewsbury, said the tribunal ruling was "quite clearly a victory for common sense" and urged her to drop her appeal against the tribunal's decision.

Mrs Azmi's claim was brought as a test case under the new religious discrimination regulations, the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2004.



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