Britain Upholds School’s Ban on Jilbab

March 23, 2006

Source: The New York Times

On March 23, 2006 The New York Times reported, "Britain's highest court ruled Wednesday that a secondary school was within its rights to bar a female student from wearing a jilbab, a loose, ankle-length gown, instead of the regular school uniform. Overturning a lower court ruling in favor of the student, Shabina Begum, a five-judge panel in the House of Lords pointed out that the school, Denbigh High School in Luton, had already taken great care to make its uniform acceptable to its students, 79 percent of whom are Muslim... Girls at Denbigh, for instance, have a wide choice of uniform -- a skirt, pants or the shalwar kameez, a flowing pants-and-tunic combination considered acceptable by many Muslims -- and they can also wear head scarves. Three nearby schools allow students to wear the jilbab. But Denbigh, a coeducational school with 1,000 students, had argued that permitting Ms. Begum, now 17, to wear the jilbab could prove divisive, possibly leading to arguments among students about whether it represented a more devout adherence to Islam. In addition, the school said, the jilbab is too constricting and would pose safety risks. Tahir Alam, the education spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, a lobbying group, told Bloomberg News that the safety argument was 'an excuse, really.' 'You have to ask yourself,' he said, 'how many people have fallen over and died because they tripped on their jilbab.'"