Veil row: MP is urged to back-track or resign
CONTROVERSY ... MP Phil WoolasA MUSLIM youth organisation has called on MP Phil Woolas to withdraw his words or resign over his comments that a classroom assistant should be sacked for wearing a face-concealing niqab veil.
Local government minister Mr Woolas, whose brief includes race relations, stepped into the row surrounding Aishah Azmi who is facing an industrial tribunal after refusing to remove her veil in front of male colleagues.
The move followed complaints that children at Headfield Church of England School, Dewsbury, found her difficult to understand because they could not see her lips move.
AdvertisementMr Woolas – whose Oldham East and Saddleworth constituency includes Milnrow, Newhey and Shaw – caused a stir after telling the Sunday Mirror that the 23-year-old had ‘put herself in a position where she can’t find a job’ and warned that she could be breaking sex discrimination rules.
Mohammed Shafiq, spokesman for the Rochdale-based Ramadhan Foundation, which describes itself as a youth organisation working for peaceful co-existence and dialogue for all communities, is calling for a climb-down from Mr Woolas.
He said: “We are deeply worried at the constant media frenzy against Islam and Muslims in the UK. There is a debate to have on integration and increasing respect for all people in a free society, but this must not be done in this current climate of fear and demonisation.
“It is absurd the government, via Phil Woolas, is passing judgement on individual cases even before the employment tribunal has had the opportunity to pass judgement.
“Ministers must never interfere in the due process of law. For the racial equality minister to make these comments is deeply worrying and patronising. He should withdraw his remarks or he should resign from the government.
“Contrary to belief Muslims are ready for debate, but we cannot allow this obsession with attacking Islam and the way we practise Islam.”
But Mr Woolas remains unrepentant, saying that he was merely exercising his democratic right as a government minister to speak out.
He said: “This was a judgement for the headteacher and she has made it. The woman was offered a compromise of being able to wear the veil in the staff room, but she refused that offer.
“While I have no problem with people wearing what they want, the children’s education is the most important issue at stake.
“Muslim teachers in that school also do not support the wearing of the veil and it’s a big mistake for some people to assume that the Muslim community has a homogenous view.”