[JURIST] A federal judge Monday dismissed a federal lawsuit [JURIST report] filed by a Muslim woman against a judge who asked her to remove her niqab [JURIST news archive] in court. Ginnnah Muhammad had alleged that Illinois 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 argued that the request violated her First Amendment [text] right to practice her religion as well as the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 [text] by denying her access to the courts because of her religion. AP has more.
The niqab has become a controversial topic in several Western countries recently, as lawmakers struggle to balance an individual's right to practice their religion with public policy and security concerns. In September 2007, Canadian chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand resisted calls by Canadian lawmakers [JURIST report] to invoke his discretionary powers to require women to remove traditional Muslim niqabs or burqas when voting in elections in the province of Quebec. In the UK, the High Court in February 2007 upheld [JURIST report] a school ban on students wearing niqabs in class, saying the veils could interfere with student-teacher interaction.