Veil teacher ‘should be sacked’, says Phil Woolas

A Muslim teaching assistant suspended for refusing to remove her veil in class should be sacked, a local government minister has said.

Phil Woolas told the Sunday Mirror that Aishah Azmi, 23, had “put herself in a position where she can’t do her job”. Mr Woolas, whose brief covers race relations, stopped short of repeating the demand on the BBC’s Politics Show. But he said if the head teacher at the school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, chose to sack Ms Azmi “so be it”.

Ms Azmi, who is originally from Cardiff, said pupils at Headfield Church of England Junior School had never complained about her wearing a veil. She said she would remove the garment, but not in front of male colleagues.

Ms Azmi’s lawyer called for Mr Woolas to withdraw his comments, which he warned might influence the classroom assistant’s employment tribunal.

“Mrs Azmi is very well able to carry out her role as a teaching assistant providing support to pupils who speak English as a second language,” said Nick Whittingham, of Kirklees Law Centre. “She is able to do this effectively while wearing the veil. She has demonstrated in a number of interviews that she can communicate effectively while wearing the veil.”

Mr Whittingham described Mr Woolas’s comments to the Sunday Mirror as “ill-advised” and called for him to withdraw his demands.

BBC News, 15 October 2006

Update:  See “Minister calls for veil-wearing teaching assistant to be sacked”, Independent, 16 October 2006