School wrong to ban Muslim girl, appeal court rules

A school which banned a Muslim girl for wearing a jilbab instead
of the school’s prescribed uniform acted unlawfully, the
appeal court has ruled.

Lord Justice Brooke said Denbigh High School in Luton had
unlawfully excluded Shabina Begum from school,  denied her the
right to manifest her religion, and denied her access to suitable
and appropriate education.

The school, which has a Muslim head teacher and a majority of
Muslim pupils, allows girls to wear a shalwar kameeze – a
traditional suit of loose trousers and top- and a headscarf.

The school claimed this satisfied the dress requirements for
Muslim girls.

Begum wore the shalwar kameeze for the first two years at
Denbigh, but when she reached age 13 she took the view that it was
not appropriate form of dress for a mature Muslim woman in a public

The appeal court ruled that under human rights legislation, the
school had not attributed enough weight to Shabina Begum’s
beliefs when it told her she could not attend school wearing a
jilbab.  The ruling overturned a previous court judgment in favour
of the school .

Lord Justice Brooke quoted guidance from the DfES that children
should not be excluded from school for breaching school uniform
policy. The DfES has also advised schools that it is not
appropriate to discipline a pupil for non compliance with a school
uniform policy for religious reasons.

Begum, now 16, is at another school, and has made no claim for
compensation, but she told the Guardian newspaper that she hoped
the ruling would strengthen other Muslim women.

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