Sacked Muslim Veil Woman Appeals Dismissal

A Muslim classroom assistant who was sacked by a Church of England school last year for refusing to remove her veil while teaching children, said she will appeal against the dismissal.

Aishah Azmi, 24, was told by a West Yorkshire school that she would have to remove her veil while teaching, after the school received complaints from students saying that they found it hard to understand her with the veil covering her face.

Azmi refused the request by Headfield Church of England school in Dewsbury and was later sacked after an employment tribunal ruled that she had not been discriminated against.

Azmi refused to let the matter rest and has now lodged papers with the Employment Appeals Tribunal in London.

An employment tribunal previously dismissed three of her claims relating to discrimination and harassment, although it did award her £1,100 ($2,170) in damages for "injury to feelings."

Azmi has said that she was willing to remove her veil in front of children, but not if male colleagues were present. The school and local authority argued that pupils needed to see her face to understand what she was saying during lessons.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, said in October, "My own bottom line is that there ought to be no problem about the visibility of people proclaiming their religious allegiance.

"There may be any number of practical questions about the degree of veiling that is socially acceptable, and I don't think there are quick answers for that. But the bottom line would be about acceptability."

Williams concluded, "If there's a practical question about, for example, the visibility of the teacher to hearing impaired children, or children with behavioural difficulties, where you need to see the face, that's a question that has to be faced in those terms, not in terms of what is religiously acceptable in public."

Azmi's lawyer, Nick Whittingham of the Kirklees Law Centre, said on Saturday that her appeal would again focus on alleged discrimination around her religious beliefs.

The hearing is expected to be held in London some time in the first half of this year.

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