Well done, the House of Lords for restoring common sense into the Shabina Begum story. You will remember that this is the case of a young muslim girl who took her school to court for refusing to allow her wear a jilbab (full-length islamic dress) to school. The school permits muslim girls to wear the shalwar kameez, but very reasonably drew the line at the jilbab. Ms Begum was not happy, and enlisted the services of one Cherie Booth QC in taking her school to court.
After the Court of Appeal found in her favour, the school appealed to the House of Lords, and yesterday, their Lordships decided that enough was enough. Lord Hoffman, in particular, was impressive in dismissing the argument that the school had deprived Ms Begum of the right to manifest her religion. There was no such right, he said, to allow one to ‘manifest one’s religion at a time and place of one’s own choosing. Common civility also has a place in religious life’. Well said!
Lord Hoffman also pointed out that the aim of the Human Rights Act 1998 was not to ‘enlarge’ the rights of UK residents whose convention rights have been violated. Rather it was to give them a platform to enforce their convention rights in this country. Perhaps all human rights lawyers will want to take note of that.
I am glad to read that Shabina Begum has accepted the verdict. Let’s have no nonsense about appealing to the European court. I would advise her to get back to school and see if she can salvage some sort of education for herself. After a self-imposed two year exile from the education system, she will need all her powers of concentration to attain halfway decent qualifications.
And while she’s at it, she will perhaps want to give thanks that she lives in a country that values the education of women to the extent of making the sort of allowances that her high school made for her. If Shabina Begum lived in the sort of country that she undoubtedly wants Britain to become, I guarantee that not only would she never have seen the four walls of a classroom, she would never have been granted audience in the highest court in the land, let alone an expensive female QC to represent her.