But the battle is far from over, and a different court with a more politically correct composition could rule the opposite. The idea that “religious freedom” trumps everything else, including the Bill of Rights and the common law, is well-entrenched among the elites. According to such legal reasoning, the wearing of hijab is a fundamental human right which may not be abridged.
The following article from Al Arabiya takes an Islamic perspective on the ruling:
US Judges Can Demand Removal of Muslim Veil
Judges in the United States can now order a veiled woman witness to remove her face covering to testify in court, according to a new court ruling issued last week that has human rights groups worried about its potential discrimination against veiled Muslim women.
In a majority vote of 5-2, a Michigan U.S. Supreme Court [sic — should be Michigan Supreme Court] ruled that judges should “exercise reasonable control” over the appearances of witnesses to judge their body language and facial expressions and to ensure proper identification.
The new ruling was passed following the 2006 Hamtramck case, in which Ginnah Mohammad, a Detroit veiled Muslim woman who wore the face veil, niqab, refused to testify in court after Judge Paul Paruk asked her to remove her facial covering in order to determine whether she spoke the truth.
Mohammed sued Paruk in federal court and her case was dismissed. The Michigan Judges Association and Michigan District Judges Association then requested a court ruling giving judges authority over a witness’s attire.
Think of the implications if the Michigan Supreme Court had not been so sensible:
|Prosecutor:||Do you see the person in this courtroom, Mrs. Veeble?|
|Witness:||Yes, sir; it’s one of those eight women wearing burkhas sitting in the front row.|
Or maybe a lineup, with six women in niqab: “Ma’am, can you identify the person who struck you?”
Common sense has won out in Michigan, at least for the time being. But, needless to say, CAIR is promising to fight this injustice to the last petrodollar:
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The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) criticized the ruling for giving judges more leeway without guidelines and warned that the ruling could backfire as veiled women may shy away from reporting crime for fear of having to unveil in front of a judge.
“It allows a large degree of leeway for the judges to make their own decisions without clear legal guidance,” Dawud Walid, executive director of the CAIR in Southfield told Detroit News. “There isn’t any clear articulation in regards to what will or will not be acceptable according to a judge’s general discretion.”
Well, no — that’s why it’s called “judging”, and not “doing what the Emir says.” It’s possible that this concept is not well-known in the Middle East.
Strangely enough, the ACLU did not go along with CAIR:
However Jessie Rossman, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was not worried and said that the language of the ruling was broad enough to not explicitly prohibit judges from allowing women to remain veiled.
“Trial court judges have retained their power to exercise their discretion,” Rossman, who was optimistic that judges would respect religious beliefs, said. “We’re hopeful and encouraging trial court judges to honor women’s constitutionally protected freedom and allow women to testify in the niqab.”
Even so, the ACLU won’t rule out the possibility of litigation:
Rossman added that while ACLU cannot challenge the adoption of the new rule, it could challenge its enforcement on a case by case basis if a trial court judge discriminates against a woman because of religious attire.
But Angela Wu, a lawyer with the Washington-based Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, warned that the Michigan ruling could be the start of legalized greater restrictions on religious liberty that may govern behavior in all walks of life.
The implications are breathtaking: the constitutional right to confront one’s accusers might violate those same accusers’ religious rights. Or the necessity of public identification may have to take a back seat to the traditions of purdah.
I don’t think we’re done with this issue yet. It has been popping up all over the West recently: Denmark has fought vigorously against a blanket (so to speak) right to veil, and Nicolas Sarkozy very publicly condemned the use of the burkha in France. But other countries and localities are quite squishy about the right of niqab, and the UK has caved almost completely.
Expect Muslim organizations to keep pushing this one at every opportunity.
Hat tip: TB.