02 September, 2009

Muslim woman banned from courtroom

*From the New Zealand Herald.

It appears that the hajib is characterised as a "hat" in Hawke's Bay New Zealand.

A Hastings Muslim woman who was barred from entering a courtroom because she refused to take off her headscarf is going to lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

Yasmeen Ali said she had gone to Hastings District Court yesterday morning to support her brother, also a Muslim, who was being sentenced, Hawke's Bay Today reported.

When she arrived she was allowed to stay in the courtroom for a short time, despite being asked to remove the scarf, or Hajib, by a court officer.

However, after the morning break, when Ms Ali tried to go back into the courtroom, she was told the presiding judge, Judge Geoff Rea, had ordered she was not to be allowed in wearing the scarf.

Ms Ali said she would lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

"It is disgusting behaviour and I should not be treated like this and I do not think any other Muslim woman should be treated like this," Ms Ali said.

Labour Party ethnic affairs spokesman Chris Carter said the judge needed to show more understanding of modern New Zealand's cultural diversity.

"Understanding and respecting different beliefs is an important element in making every Kiwi feel they are a valued and equal citizen of New Zealand," he said.

Mr Carter said there were no identification issues as Ms Ali was wearing a headscarf rather than a full burqa, and the request to leave was based on a court rule prohibiting the wearing of "hats".

He said he hoped court officials in Hastings would meet with the local Muslim community to ensure such misunderstandings didn't occur again.

Ms Ali's brother, Carlos Manuel Brooking, 22, was waiting to appear for sentence on a charge of common assault.

He was asked by the judge to remove his "hat". Brooking removed the headress but was reluctant to remove the smaller garment underneath. He then walked out of court and was taken into custody.

Later in the dock he apologised saying he had recently become a Muslim. On the assault charge he was sentenced to 125 hours community work.


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