School Sacks Woman After Veil Row

A Muslim classroom assistant suspended by a school for wearing a veil in lessons has been sacked. Aishah Azmi, 23, was asked to remove the veil after the Church of England school in Dewsbury, West Yorks, said pupils found it hard to understand her.

Last month, an employment tribunal ruled Mrs Azmi had not been discriminated against, but awarded her £1,100 for “injury to feelings”.

Kirklees Council confirmed the teaching assistant had been dismissed.

A spokesman said a staffing dismissals committee of the school’s governing body had held a disciplinary hearing into “the circumstances that resulted in the suspension of a bilingual support worker at the school”.

“As result of the hearing the committee decided to terminate the employment of the employee concerned,” he said.

Mrs Azmi’s lawyer Nick Whittingham, of the Kirklees Law Centre, said the local education authority was involved in a disciplinary process against her, but he was not aware any decision had been reached.

Mrs Azmi was unavailable for comment.

In October, a tribunal dismissed her claims of religious discrimination and harassment on religious grounds.

Mrs Azmi had said she was willing to remove her veil in front of children, but not if male colleagues were present.

The dispute was brought as a test case under new religious discrimination regulations, the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2004.

At the time the married mother-of-one said she would appeal against the decision to dismiss her religious discrimination claims.

And she criticised government ministers who had intervened in the case, saying it made her “fearful of the consequences for Muslim women in this country who want to work”.

Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik, who had urged to Mrs Azmi to accept the tribunal’s decision, said the case was about the education of the children at the school and not about religion.

Speaking after the sacking, he said: “While I would absolutely defend her right to wear the veil in society, it’s very clear that her wearing the veil in the classroom setting inhibits her ability to support children.”

Mrs Azmi’s case became a central part of a national debate on multiculturism in Britain.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said the veil row was part of a necessary debate about the way the Muslim community integrated into British society.

The veil was a “mark of separation” which made people of other ethnic backgrounds feel uncomfortable, he added.

His comments came after Leader of the House of Commons Jack Straw, said wearing the full veil – or niqab – made community relations more difficult.