Headscarfs in Court

The Dom Post reports:

A judge who barred a Muslim woman from entering a courthouse because she was wearing a headscarf has admitted he made a mistake.

Yasmeen Ali was attempting to enter Hastings District Court on Tuesday to support her brother Carlos Manuel Brooking, 22, who was appearing for sentencing on a charge of assault. …

Ms Ali, a 25-year-old mother-of-three, was asked by a court attendant to remove her headscarf on entering the courthouse. She refused and took a seat.

When she tried to re-enter court after the morning break, she was blocked.

Unless the court would also force a nun to remove her headdress, or a Sikh his turban, it is inappropriate to require a Muslim woman to remove her headscarf.

However it seems, this was not intentional with regard to a general ban.

Her brother had earlier been put into custody after refusing to remove a hat while sitting in court awaiting his sentencing, despite being requested to do so by Judge Rea.

Brooking apologised later in the dock and was sentenced to 125 hours’ community work for the assault.

Judicial communications adviser Neil Billington said the incident was the result of Judge Rea’s “mistaken assumption of what was occurring in the courtroom”.

“The judge required the removal of the woman because of her association with [her brother] who had just been removed.

“The judge had mistakenly assumed that her headgear was a demonstration of protest at the court.

“He did not require her removal because of any objection to the wearing of Muslim headgear. “

So in a way, it is a fuss about nothing. The Judge has made clear there is no general ban. It was a mistaken assumption based on the conduct of her brother.

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