THE RIGHT of Muslim pupils and teachers to wear a veil or other head covering should be protected by the Government, according to a survey of nearly 1,200 British Muslims.
The study, commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Islamic Human Rights Commission, contradicts a High Court judgment this week that a school was correct to ban a 12-year-old girl from wearing a full-face niqab.
The report said the majority of women who wear veils found them liberating, letting them "fully take part in education" by allowing them to learn in a comfortable environment. Banning veils and headscarves would "impede the educational aspirations of thousands of Muslim women".
"The wearing of niqab is considered, in various schools of thought within Islam, to be an obligation," it said. Arzu Merali, one of its authors, said the niqab had been worn in British schools for decades. "For it to become a problem now is clearly about political perceptions," she said. The survey showed 85 per cent of niqab wearers had been laughed at or mocked since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In this week's High Court judgment, Mr Justice Silber accepted a High Wycombe headteacher's argument that niqabs posed a security risk, because intruders might slip on to school property without being recognised, and that the niqab hindered communication and learning.
The family had argued there was no evidence to support this. They are now considering an appeal.
Shah Qureshi, the family's lawyer, said the girl and her family were not extremists.
The headteacher, Buckinghamshire council and Lord Adonis, the schools minister, said the judgment upheld schools' right to set their own uniform code.