From niqabs to Special Branch

20th October 2006 at 01:00
February 2006: Aishah Azmi suspended from her job as teaching assistant at Headfield Church of England junior school, Dewsbury, for refusing to remove her veil in the presence of male teachers.

July: A five-day employment tribunal hearing in Leeds considers Mrs Azmi's complaint of religious discrimination. Even though it is a test case, there is no journalist present and it is not reported.

August 27: Ruth Kelly, communities secretary, says Islamic schools that promote "isolationism" and extremism should be closed.

October 2: The Church of England says it will reserve 25 per cent of places at new schools for non-Christian pupils.

October 4: David Cameron, the Conservative leader, suggests Islamic schools should admit a quarter non-Muslim pupils, although the comments are later watered down.

October 5: Jack Straw, the Leader of the House and former home secretary, calls for Muslim women to lift their veils as a way of breaking down barriers between communities.

October 11: Ruth Kelly says that Muslim groups would have funding withdrawn if they fail to root out extremism.

October 11: Harriett Harman, constitutional affairs minister, says forcing Muslim women to wear a veil breaches their human rights.

October 13: The Daily Mirror reports the story of Mrs Azmi's suspension from school on its front page under the headline "Teacher axed for keeping her veil on".

October 14: It is revealed an Islamic state school in Leicester will force non-Muslim girls to cover their heads. The school later makes a U-turn.

October 15: Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, says in a leaked letter to the Sunday Times that all schools should reserve a quarter of places for non-believers.

October 15: Phil Woolas, local government and community cohesion minister, says that Mrs Azmi should be sacked.

October 16: The Guardian reports that lecturers and staff at British universities will be asked to report Muslim students suspected of involvement in extremism to the Special Branch.

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