CAIR-MI: VEIL COSTS HER CLAIM IN COURT
Ginnnah Muhammad of Detroit criticized Hamtramck Judge Paul Paruk: "I didn't feel like the court recognized me as a person that needed justice."
Ginnnah Muhammad of Detroit was looking for her day in court.
Instead, she said she felt as if a judge forced her to choose between her case and her religion in a small-claims dispute in Hamtramck District Court.
A devout Muslim, she wore a niqab -- a scarf and veil to cover her face and head except for her eyes -- Oct. 11 as she contested a rental car company's charging her $2,750 to repair a vehicle after thieves broke into it.
Judge Paul Paruk said he needed to see her face to judge her truthfulness and gave Muhammad, 42, a choice: take off the veil when testifying or the case would be dismissed. She kept the veil on.
"I just feel so sad," Muhammad said last week. "I feel that the court is there for justice for us. I didn't feel like the court recognized me as a person that needed justice. I just feel I can't trust the court."
The wearing of a niqab has spurred increasing debate, particularly in Europe. In 2004, France banned the wearing of it and other religious symbols in public schools.
This month, former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, still a member of parliament, ignited a fierce debate over the niqab by suggesting that Muslim women in his district remove their veils when they visit his office. He said it would improve communication, calling the veil "a visible statement of separation and of difference."
It has sparked controversy in the United States as well. A Muslim woman from Florida unsuccessfully went to court in an effort to overturn the state's order in 2001 that she reveal her face for her driver's license photo.
In metro Detroit, which has one of the country's largest Muslim populations, a small minority of Muslim women -- primarily those of Yemeni descent -- wear the niqab, said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. . .
Walid said Paruk still violated Muhammad's civil rights.
"Although a niqab is donned by a minority of Muslim females, it is still a bona fide religious practice," he said.