Muslim girl in court challenge

A 15-year-old Muslim girl has won permission to bring a high court challenge against her school in a dispute over her right to wear traditional religious dress.

Her lawyers confirmed yesterday that a judge who considered the case papers found she had an “arguable case” to seek judicial review. A full hearing will take place some time after April.

The Hijab

“Hijab is the modern name for the practice of dressing modestly, which all practicing Muslims past the age of puberty are instructed to do in their holy book, the Qur’an. No precise dress code for men or women is set out in the Qur’an, and various Islamic scholars have interpreted the meaning of hijab in different ways.”
- Wikipedia

Shabina Begum has been out of school since September 2002, when she was sent home after arriving at Denbigh high school in Luton, Bedfordshire, in the jellaba, a long, flowing gown.

Her lawyers are arguing that Shabina’s right to practise her religion is being infringed unlawfully.

Denbigh, a 1,000-pupil comprehensive where almost 80% of pupils are Muslim, maintains it has a flexible uniform policy which takes into account all faiths and cultures, and that is not acting in a discriminatory manner. Pupils can wear trousers, skirts, or a shalwar kameez, consisting of trousers and a tunic.

Although she has not been officially excluded, Shabina has effectively been prevented from attending school, her lawyers claim.

Originally, she wore a shalwar kameez to school, but her deepening interest in her religion led to her wearing the jellaba. When she turned up in it, Shabina was told she had to go home to change.

Her beliefs would not let her do that, she said. Since then she had attempted to keep up studies from home, but had found it almost impossible.

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