August 19, 2010

Australian judge rules against witness wearing niqab

by Rachel Thomas

A judge in Perth, Australia, has ruled that a woman Muslim acting as a witness in a case should not appear in a niqab.

Judge Shauna Deane is recorded as saying that the jury in the case should be able to see her facial expressions, but was at pains to state that she was not seeking to make a legal precedent.

While it is common for women to appear in Islamic courts without face coverings, the issue comes at a time when Islamic face coverings have become a divisive topic in Europe, with some countries seeking bans on their public use, especially France and Belgium.

Some fear that face coverings represent the “Islamislation” of Europe through the erosion of women’s rights, while others arguing that religious freedom lays at the heart of liberal western democracy.

In either event, the Australian judge appears to have tried to ensure her own ruling is based solely on the individual circumstances of the case being presented, and on common-sense grounds rather than religious or secular arguments.

The case itself revolves around whether an Islamic school had maladmistrated student numbers in order to secure grants.

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