| Malik: Row deepens
London, Oct. 21: The row over the Muslim teaching assistant who was suspended for failing to remove her veil during lessons deepened yesterday as a Muslim MP urged her to give up the fight.
Shahid Malik, the MP for Dewsbury, called on Aishah Azmi, 24, who lives in a first-floor flat in Dewsbury, west Yorkshire, with her Indian-born husband Ahmed Khan and their two-year-old daughter Zainab, to drop the argument. He said: “I would appeal to Mrs Azmi just to let this thing go. There is no real support for it.” He added that the tribunal ruling against her was “absolutely spot on”.
“I have Muslim parents in my constituency who have said they wouldn’t send their children to a school where the teachers wore veils while they were teaching.
“I just think there is very little support for this. She is very isolated and it would be healthy all round if she just accept the tribunal result.”
The intervention came as Azmi’s lawyer said he wanted to apply for legal aid to take her appeal against the tribunal ruling that she was not discriminated against to the European Court.
The tribunal found that she had been victimised, but rejected claims that she was discriminated against because of her religion. She was awarded £1,100 for “injury to her feelings”. He also said that his client wanted to pursue a career as a full-time teacher.
Azmi, who is studying for a degree in English and Arabic studies has been suspended on full pay since February from her post at Headfield Church of England School, Dewsbury.
She did not wish to discuss the case yesterday. Azmi’s legal adviser, Nick Wittingham, of the Kirklees Law Centre, said: “She would like, when she has completed her degree, to do a post-graduate certificate of education and become a full-time teacher.
“As a teacher the problem of the veil is less because if a man wants to come into the class they knock first. It gets round a lot of the problem.”
Azmi was suspended for insisting on retaining her veil while assisting in a Year Six class of 11-year-olds, who speak English as their second language. Headfield Church of England School considered face-to-face communication essential for the work of a bi-lingual support worker.
Her case was referred by arbitration service Acas to the Kirklees Law Centre, in Dewsbury.
The centre is applying to the Lord Chancellor for “exceptional funding” to cover the cost of the case on the grounds of its wider public importance. Legal aid does not apply to people taking claims to an employment tribunal.
The Daily Mail tabloid said today that Azmi’s family a key role at the hardline Markazi mosque in Dewsbury, west Yorkshire, which was attended by suicide bomber Mohammed Sidique Khan.