Mich. High Court Waits to Decide Muslim Veil Issue

May 12, 2009

Author: David Eggert

Source: The Detroit News

Wire Service: AP


The Michigan Supreme Court on Tuesday weighed whether to give judges power over how witnesses dress in court after a Muslim woman's case was dismissed when she refused to remove a veil to testify, but the justices didn't make a decision.

Ginnnah Muhammad of Detroit sued a judge for dismissing her small claims case when she refused to remove her niqab, a veil covering her hair and face except for the eyes.

The 45-year-old was contesting a $3,000 charge from a rental-car company to repair a vehicle that she said thieves had broken into. Her case prompted a proposed statewide court rule to specifically let judges regulate the appearance of parties and witnesses. Judges backing the rule say they need to be able to observe the demeanor of witnesses.

Muhammad told the high court during a public hearing that she is a law-abiding citizen, but she did not have a choice when Hamtramck District Judge Paul Paruk asked her to remove the veil in an October 2006 proceeding.

"I don't want to sit at home and feel like I can't ask a judge to help me if I have a problem," Muhammad said.

The high court tabled making a decision until its next administrative conference.