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UK: Despite PM Cameron’s approval, Birmingham College forced to retract veil ban PDF Print E-mail

London ~ Friday 13 September 2013

Birmingham college revokes Muslim veil ban after outcry
Birmingham Metropolitan College last night reversed its decision after widespread protest
By Rose Troup Buchanan
A college has been forced to reverse its ban on Muslim veils after nationwide protest.

Birmingham Metropolitan College released a statement, commenting: "We are concerned that recent media attention is detracting from our core mission of providing high quality learning. We will modify our policies to allow individuals to wear specific items of personal clothing to reflect their cultural values."

Campaigners welcomed the decision, with Muslimah Pride, an organisation campaigning for Muslim women, commenting: "It is clear from the public outcry against this decision, that such a ban in a public institution is not acceptable.

"The ban went against the basic human rights of self-expression and the freedom to practice religion. The college was categorically wrong to administer such a ban in the first place."

The climb-down follows widespread disagreement with the policy, which banned students from wearing the Muslim veil and other facial coverings for 'security' reasons.

An online petition attracted over 8,000 signatures in 48 hours as students, city councillors and MPs expressed their disapproval of the policy.

Although Prime Minister David Cameron backed the decision to ban the veil, Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg was among the politicians who voiced their concern.

The college announced it had 'listened to the views of our students' but also stated that it would still require the ability to confirm individual's identities, 'in order to maintain safeguarding and security'.

The National Union of Students (NUS) welcomed the change, having previously condemned the college's policy.

The National Black Students' Officer for NUS Aaron Kiely said: “The college have stated that the recent media attention stopped them from being able to provide providing high quality learning."

Kiely continued by saying: "No group of students from any community should feel specifically targeted due to an institutional policy. NUS is committed to speaking out for rights to religious freedom, cultural expression and a woman’s right to choose.”
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  London ~ Thursday 12 September 2013

David Cameron backs college's decision to ban Muslim veils

Educational institutions should 'set and enforce' their own uniform policies, says PM
By Jess Denham
David Cameron has supported a college's decision to ban students from wearing facial coverings.

Birmingham Metropolitan College told Muslim students that religious veils must be removed on the premises for security reasons, in a move that has been met with outrage.

Hoodies, hats and caps are also banned, in order to safeguard students and ensure that all individuals are ‘easily identifiable’.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister has told how Cameron believes that educational institutions should be able ‘to set and enforce their own school uniform policies’.

Despite understanding the need for veils to removed at airport security checks, Nick Clegg has voiced concern over the controversial move.

Speaking on his LBC 97.3 phone-in show, the Deputy Prime Minister said: “I'm really quite uneasy about anyone being told what they have to wear and I certainly would need to understand why. One of the things that is great about our country is that we are diverse, we are tolerant”

"People do dress differently, people do have different faiths, people do have different convictions and that is reflected in what they wear, in how they present themselves," he added.

The college has stated the priority of safeguarding students as its reason for the ban. “All prospective students, as well as staff, have been advised of the policy, which will mean that everyone allowed on the premises can understand and know each other,” principal and chief-executive Dame Christine Braddock told the Birmingham Mail.

The news has sent shockwaves around the Muslim community, with one 17-year-old girl calling the decision ‘discriminatory’ and ‘disgusting’.

Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, has expressed her shock at the policy. She commented: “I would like to know how many students are affected with a full explanation as to why the compromise suggested by students at the college - that the veil is removed for security staff to check and verify identity before being put back on - was not accepted."
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images/stories/Guardian_logo.gif London ~ Thursday 12 September 2013

Nick Clegg 'uneasy' about ban on Muslim veils in school
Deputy PM says he understands teachers feeling uncomfortable about pupils wearing veil, but does not back 'blanket prohibition'
By Rowena Mason, political correspondent
 
Nick Clegg was asked about a ban on face coverings at Birmingham Metropolitan college during his LBC radio phone-in. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Nick Clegg has backed teachers who feel uncomfortable about pupils wearing full-face Muslim veils, but says he is "uneasy" about a college that has brought in a blanket ban.

The deputy prime minister said he could "totally understand" teachers who did not want full-face veils in the classroom as they needed to make "eye contact and face contact with pupils".

However, Clegg said these were "exceptional circumstances" and he generally supported people's right to wear whatever religious clothing they liked.

"I'm really quite uneasy about anyone being told what they have to wear," he said on LBC 97.3. "I think I've set the bar very high to justify something like that because one of the things that is great about our country is that we are diverse, we are tolerant.

"People do dress differently, people do have different faiths, people do have different convictions and that is reflected in what they wear, in how they present themselves."

He spoke out after Muslim students at Birmingham Metropolitan college protested about being prevented from wearing veils.

The college has said it brought in a ban on face coverings, which includes the Muslim niqab, for security reasons.

Clegg said he "intuitively" did not support a "blanket prohibition" on any type of religious clothing in schools.

However, he said he would look into the issue further after it was raised by a listener on his weekly Call Clegg phone-in.