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October 11: Ruth Kelly says that Muslim groups would have funding withdrawn if they fail to root out extremism.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

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today