Begum called the ruling "a victory for all Muslims who wish to preserve
their identity and values despite prejudice."
LONDON, England -- A 16-year-old British Muslim girl has won the right to
wear full Islamic dress at school.
Britain's Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday that Shabina Begum had been
"unlawfully denied ... the right to manifest her religion."
Begum was sent home from Denbigh High School in Luton, north of London, in
September 2002 for wearing a jilbab, which covers the body except for the
hands and face.
The school said the jilbab posed a health and safety risk and might cause
divisions among pupils. Eighty percent of Denbigh's 1,000 pupils are
Muslim, and the school feared those who wore traditional dress might be
seen as "better Muslims" than others.
The school denied acting in a discriminatory manner and said it had a
flexible school uniform policy that took into account all faiths and
cultures. Pupils are allowed to wear trousers, skirts or a traditional
shalwar kameez, consisting of trousers and a tunic.
Begum took the case to Britain's High Court, arguing she was being denied
her right to education and to manifest her religious beliefs.
Last June, the High Court ruled the dress code was a "reasoned, balanced,
proportionate policy" and that Begum's human rights had not been violated,
The Associated Press reported.
Begum appealed that ruling to the Court of Appeal, citing Article 9 of the
European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees "freedom to manifest
one's religion or beliefs."
On Wednesday, Judge Scott Baker said, "What went wrong in this case was
that the school failed to appreciate that by its action it was infringing
on the claimant's Article 9 right to manifest her religion…