Yesterday, before His Honour Judge Peter Murphy ruled that a female Muslim defendant in a criminal trial must remove her face-covering veil (niqaab) whilst giving evidence, Home Office Minister Jeremy Brown said he was “instinctively uneasy” about restricting religious freedoms, but that there should be a national debate over banning the burka.
Many of us have a gut reaction to the niqaab, which poses particular problems for our mostly liberal, secular society. Arguably, it also prompts less laudable instincts originating in fear of the ‘other’. But trusting in our instincts is never a good way of solving complex problems. As I have suggested before, when politicians appeal to their gut they are often just avoiding making an intellectually sound case for their position.
Updated | As has been widely reported, a regional German court has ruled that a Muslim boy’s religious circumcision was a crime and that it violated his basic constitutional rights to bodily integrity. This ruling has no direct effect on other European states, but will buoy the campaign against male circumcision.
Thanks to an admirably swift response from the Cologne Regional Court to my request, I have uploaded the appeal decision (the important one), the original decision which was under appeal and the court’s press release. All are in German. I have also uploaded a version of the appeal judgment in English (updated – I have been sent a much better English translation).
The decision marks a victory for campaigners who threatened to bring a judicial review challenging a surveillance project that uses 150 automatic number plate recognition cameras to monitor the roads in two predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham. We posted earlier this week on the issue, sparked by a Guardian investigation:
The newspaper’s investigation has led to considerable public criticism of the scheme and the threat of legal action. The criticisms have concerned three main areas.First, it has been alleged that the scheme constitutes an unacceptable infringement of civil liberties. Local MPs Roger Godsiff (Labour) and John Hemming (Lib Dem) have attacked it on these grounds, with the latter said to be seeking the support of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Second, there have been complaints about a lack of consultation despite the fact that Project Champion is reported to be undergoing tests with the intention of going live in August.
The cameras will not be used “until a consultation has been carried out“.
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