The Herald reports:
Britain’s leading Muslim organisation warned yesterday that a judge’s landmark ruling that women should not give evidence in court while wearing the veil threatened to undermine the nation’s long-standing tradition of religious tolerance.
Amid warnings by the Muslim Council of Britain of an increasingly “hysterical” debate on the niqab, Judge Peter Murphy concluded that a female defendant would be allowed to attend court while wearing the Islamic face covering but would not be permitted to take the witness stand unless she removed it.
No other ruling is possible. Of course you must be able to see the face of a witness. Observing body language is crucial for lawyers and a jury.
People can believe whatever they want. But their beliefs do not trump the law.
Talat Ahmed, chair of the council’s social and family affairs committee, said: “Every time we discuss the niqab, it usually comes with a diet of bigoted commentary about our faith and the place of Islam in Britain. There are few people who wear the niqab, and they should be allowed to wear this veil if they freely decide to do so.”
She said banning the garment was “un-British” and would mean “embarking on a slippery slope where the freedom to wear religious attire of all faiths would be at risk”.
Who is talking of banning them? The court has merely said you can’t testify in court wearing one.
The woman denies attempting to intimidate a witness. When she stands trial in November the court will be adjourned and cleared to allow her to identify herself to a female court officer. When she gives evidence with her face uncovered she will be able to do so from behind a screen or via video-link so she will not be on view.
Sounds like the court has bent over backwards.