A British judge barred a Muslim woman from serving on a jury in London on Monday after she refused to remove her face veil, or niqab.
Judge Aidan Marron QC said he needed to see her facial expressions and could not sit on an attempted murder trial unless she removed it, the Daily Mail reported.
Before the woman was about to take the oath in the case, Judge Marron said: “I wonder whether I can address the lady who is veiled. Would you prefer not to remove your veil in this particular case?”
The woman, who was wearing western clothing including a fitted grey jacket according to the newspaper, replied: “Yes.”
Judge Marron then said: “I entirely understand that, but in this particular case it is desirable that your face is exposed, so I’m going to invite you to stand down. I hope you understand.”
The report claims that a white male member of the jury pool was then sworn in in the woman’s place after she was told to stand down.
But the ruling, which was the first of its kind, drew criticism from a Muslim UK-based rights group.
“This is totally unacceptable. I really can’t understand why facial expressions could have any impact on the judge, the judgment or anyone else in a trial. It has no relevance,” Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, told the newspaper.
“I’m speechless that you can exclude someone on the basis of the way that they dress … It’s very worrying that a judge is being prejudiced against women wearing a veil.”
The Daily Mail notes that UK guidelines state that “veils can be worn in court although senior judges should decide on a case-by-case basis.”
The incident reminded many of when a Muslim female juror in Britain in 2007 was accused listening to a hidden stereo under her headscarf.
But she was cleared of a contempt of court charge when the Attorney General’s office ruled there was insufficient evidence.
(Written by Eman El-shenawi)