Thursday, March 03, 2005

Uniform Doesn't Mean Uniform In England Anymore

In this morning's New York Times, they are reporting that an English court has ruled that a school's dress code violated a Muslim student's human rights by not allowing her to wear the "jilbab" (traditional Muslim garment) instead of her school uniform. According to The Times:

The court stopped short of ordering the school to allow the girl, Shabina Begum, to wear her choice of dress - the jilbab, a long shapeless robe. But it said that the school, Denbigh High School in Luton, Bedfordshire, had erred in not considering her human rights when it ordered her to wear the uniform.

"Her freedom to manifest her religion or belief in public was being limited," Lord Justice Brooke, vice president of the civil division of the Court of Appeal, one of Britain's highest courts, said in his opinion. As an extension of the state, he said, the school should be required to "justify the limitation on her freedom created by the school's uniform code and by the way it was enforced."

Miss Begum, 16, called the decision "a victory for all Muslims who wish to preserve their identity and values despite prejudice and bigotry."

She told reporters that the school's policy was not "merely a local decision taken in isolation" but part of a pattern. "It was a consequence of an atmosphere that has been created in Western societies since 9/11," she said, "an atmosphere in which Islam has been made a target for vilification in the name of the 'war on terror.' "

But a spokeswoman for Luton Borough Council, which is responsible for Denbigh, said that the case had been lost on a "technicality" concerning the way the decision to deny Miss Begum the right to wear the jilbab was reached - not, significantly, on the merits of its uniform policy or on its right to set policy."

The whole thing can be read here.

Here in our own California school district, we have had school uniforms in place for several years. Parents do have the choice of "opting-out" (and some do) but apparently, in England, uniform has always meant uniform. But no more.

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