Not Saussure

October 15, 2006

Jumping the gun?

Filed under: civil liberties, Community, Islam, UK — notsaussure @ 2:31 am

Since this is The Independent’s version of what The Sunday Mirror reckon he said, so something may have got a garbled, but this seems a bit OTT and certainly premature:

Phil Woolas, Communities and Local Government minister, whose brief includes race relations, said that teaching assistant Aishah Azmi had put herself in a position where she could not “do her job” at Headfield Church of England junior school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. The suspended 24-year-old was “denying the right of children to a full education”, and her refusal to work unveiled with men amounted to “sexual discrimination”. “She should be sacked,” he told the Sunday Mirror. Ms Azmi admitted she had not worn a veil at her job interview.

Since there appears to be some dispute (at least according to Ms Azmi) about what Ms Azmi and the school had agreed about her veil, and quite possibly about other matters too, wouldn’t it have been better for Mr Woolas to wait until the Employment Tribunal to which the matter’s been referred has had the opportunity to hear both sides of the story and makes its decision before jumping in with both feet?

I’m not expressing a view one way or the other; she certainly didn’t come over particularly well in the TV interview she gave (link here), particularly when it transpired she didn’t wear her veil at the job interview where one of the panel was a male governor.

But she’s only 23 or 24 and has presumably never been on national TV before, so maybe it’s not fair to judge her on that 2 or 3 minute performance. I’d rather be in full possession of the facts, including both her and the school’s account of what they’d agreed or not about her veil, her contract and terms and conditions of employment and a copy of the school’s disciplinary proceedures, before making a judgment. That’s what the Employment Tribunal will investigate. I’m just rather surprised that a government minister doesn’t share my caution in employment disputes.

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