This ban does not bode well for Britain's multicultural future

The ruling holds wider implications for the place of Muslims in British society

Share
Related Topics

What to make of the ban given this week to wearing face veils while giving evidence in court?

Beyond the issue of this individual woman’s dignity and freedom to practice and express her religion, the ruling holds wider implications for the place of Muslims in British multicultural society.

Behind the ruling is a not-so-subtle message directly from the state apparatus to Britain’s Muslims: the apparent incompatibility between being a practicing Muslim and participating in British public life (despite the judge’s comments that this is not the case).

The pro-diversity social narrative in Britain is contravened by this ruling and other state policies that marginalize and exacerbate the differences between Muslims and wider society in a way that presents “British” and “Muslim” as dichotomous. As a country that claims to be a tolerant multicultural society that respects and embraces diversity, Britain cannot have it both ways.

This ruling has prompted elements within government to call it a key piece of jurisprudence that may segue into a full niqab ban in Britain, akin to that in France and other European nations. This would represent a major blow for Muslim minority rights. The state needs to take a clear position. Is this really a question of the integrity of the legal process or is its ultimate aim much larger?

The ruling infringes upon this woman’s right to carry out her religious belief and perform her civic duties in court. This is not to say that every Muslim woman wears a face veil. In fact, in the UK, Muslim women who wear the face veil are in the minority.

But there are some for whom wearing this piece of cloth is an intrinsic element of their ability to practice their faith. There are few women for whom this ruling about presenting evidence in a court of law will directly affect. However, the message that the ruling presents is clear, and its effects will run deep.

And for what? Must the quest for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth be at the expense of the inalienable right to freedom of religious expression? If the issue is one of identification, then it is perfectly possible for the courts to verify her identity in private, by a female officer of the court, as has been done in the past.

Security screenings in courts and other government buildings are conducted by gender-specific officers in order to maintain the dignity of entrants, and it is not an unreasonable extension to apply this to identity checks in the interest of preserving a woman’s dignity.

A piece of cloth roughly 6” x 12” does not impede the ability of the witness to provide truthful evidence under oath in the courtroom. We must ask ourselves whether this court ruling is really about due process of the law, or about Britain’s multicultural future.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire, Britain’s largest Immigration Removal Centre  

Thanks to Channel 4 we now see just how appallingly Yarl’s Wood detention centre shames Britain

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
 

If I were Prime Minister: I’d ensure ministers took mental health in the armed forces as seriously as they take physical wounds

James Jones
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003