Lifting the veil
Mar 6 2008 by Katie Campling, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
KIRKLEES people are to be surveyed on how they feel about Muslim women wearing veils.
Crescent Consultancy, based in Batley, have been commissioned by North Kirklees Interfaith Council to research why the veil is worn by some Muslim women and how it affects their integration into society.
The study will also look at people’s feelings about the veil being worn.
Peter Tarleton, of Crescent Consultancy, said the research aimed to help educate organisations about the needs of faith communities and to help integrate Muslims into British society.
It is also hoped the research will promote positive images of Muslim women and help build trust and tolerance within communities.
People can have their say on the veil at two focus group meetings in Kirklees in the coming weeks.
The first will be held at Dewsbury Options Centre on George Street on March 11. The second will take place at the Hudawi Cultural Centre on Great Northern Street in Huddersfield on March 18, from 6pm.
People who cannot make the meetings can fill in questionnaires, which have also been sent to businesses and service organisations.
The results are to be analysed by Matt Francis, a researcher at Leeds University and will be given to North Kirklees Interfaith Council by the end of April.
Khalil Kazi, also of Crescent Consultancy, said the survey was commissioned, following a series of high-profile stories about Muslim women over the past few years.
“The council wanted to do research into the wearing of the veil and the implications for services and their users.”
The study is being paid for with a grant from the Government’s department of Local Government and Communities.
There is a distinction between the hijab (literally "covering up" in Arabic) and the niqab (meaning "full veil").
Hijab is a common sight among Muslim women, a scarf that covers their hair and neck.
Niqab consists of covering up completely, including gloves and a veil for the face - leaving just a slit for the eyes, or covering them too with transparent material.
One of the recent stories which drew attention to the veil concerned teaching assistant Aishah Azmi, 24, of Thornhill Leeds, who was suspended after refusing to remove her veil while teaching at Headfield C of E Junior School in Dewsbury.
Pupils had claimed it was difficult to understand her. She said she would have removed the veil but not if a male member of staff was present.
She was sacked in November 2006 after an employment tribunal in Leeds dismissed three claims of discrimination and harassment.
But she was found to have been victimised and was given £1,000 for ‘injury to her feelings’.
In March last year, she appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal in London. But the appeal was dismissed.
Other high-profile stories included former Home Secretary Jack Straw saying in October, 2006, that he preferred women to remove their veils when attending surgeries in his constituency and the introduction of new Government guidelines in March 2007, which give headteachers the right to ban the Muslim veil or other religious dress from classrooms.
In September, 2004, France introduced a ban on religious symbols, including the headscarf, in schools.
l For a copy of the questionnaire, contact Crescent Consultancy on 07815686065, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Crescent Consultancy, PO Box 111, Batley, West Yorkshire, WF17 6WU.