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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2006, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
'No discrimination' in veil row
Aishah Azmi speaking at a press conference
Ms Azmi is appealing against the dismissal of her claims

A Muslim classroom assistant suspended by a school for wearing a veil in lessons has lost her claim of religious discrimination at a tribunal.

Aishah Azmi, 23, was asked to remove the veil after the Church of England school in Dewsbury, West Yorks, said pupils found it hard to understand her.

The tribunal dismissed her claims of religious discrimination and harassment on religious grounds.

But Kirklees Council was ordered to pay her 1,100 for victimising her.

Mrs Azmi, a married mother-of-one, said she would be appealing against the decision to dismiss her religious discrimination claims.

In a statement she criticised ministers who had intervened in the case and said it made her "fearful of the consequences for Muslim women in this country who want to work".

She said: "However, I am pleased that the tribunal have recognised the victimising way in which the school and the local education authority have handled this matter and the distress that has caused me."

Muslim women who wear the veils are not aliens
Aishah Azmi

The case attracted comments from the prime minister, who backed Kirklees Council for suspending Mrs Azmi.

Tony Blair said the wearing of a full face veil was a "mark of separation" and made some "outside the community feel uncomfortable".

The government's race minister, Phil Woolas, demanded Mrs Azmi to be sacked, accusing her of "denying the right of children to a full education".

Mrs Azmi, who is originally from Cardiff, said: "Muslim women who wear the veils are not aliens, and politicians need to recognise that what they say can have a very dangerous impact on the lives of the minorities they treat as outcasts.

"I will continue to uphold my religious beliefs and urge Muslims to engage in dialogue with the wider community, despite the attacks that are being made upon them."

Tony Blair
Tony Blair said wearing full face veils was a "mark of separation"

Headfield Church of England Junior School, which has 546 pupils, suspended Mrs Azmi because it said pupils found it hard to understand her during lessons.

Kirklees Council said the decision was taken after a monitoring period in which the impact of wearing the veil on the teaching and learning was studied.

It said: "In this case the school and local authority had to balance the rights of the children to receive the best quality education possible and Mrs Azmi's desire to express her cultural beliefs by wearing a veil in class.

"The education of the children is of paramount importance and it is disappointing that the school was unable to reach a compromise with Mrs Azmi in this case."


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