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: Area Manager - West Midlands - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - Yorkshire & Humber - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Embedded Linux Engineer - C / C++

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A well funded smart home compan...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Engineer - Python / Node / C / Go

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: *Flexible working in a relaxed ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress – arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?