[JURIST] A Muslim woman filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against a judge who asked her to remove her niqab [Wikipedia backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in court, claiming the request violated her First Amendment [text] right to practice her religion. In the lawsuit, Ginnnah Muhammad alleges that state small claims Judge Paul Paruk [31st District Court website] said he had to see her face to gauge her veracity and threatened to dismiss her case if she refused to remove her veil. Muhammad's claim against Paruk also cites the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 [text] in alleging that she was denied access to the courts because of her religion.
The niqab has become a controversial topic recently, as lawmakers struggle to balance an individual's right to practice their religion with public policy concerns. In the UK, the High Court in February upheld [JURIST report] a school ban on students wearing niqabs in class, saying the veils could interfere with student-teacher interaction. A UK teacher's aide last October announced plans to appeal a lower UK court's decision [JURIST report] rejecting her discrimination claims against her school for refusing to let her wear a niqab in the classroom. Last month it was reported that a panel of senior UK judges had approved new courtroom rules that would ban full Islamic veils in the courts [JURIST report]. AP has more.