Logical: “Defence lawyers raised concerns about how the jury could be expected to read the woman’s facial expressions if they could not see her face.”
The reason for the case itself is also quite interesting: allegations that state funding was fraudulently obtained for an Islamic school. From either perspective (and the woman is a witness for the prosecution), the case is amply representative of the broader issue of Muslims living in Australia who are unwilling to integrate with society and to play by its rules. “Judge’s orders: ‘Muslim witness must remove burqa’,” by Chris Robinson for the Australian Associated Press, August 19:
A Perth judge has ordered that a Muslim woman must remove a full burqa while giving evidence before a jury in a fraud case.
Judge Shauna Deane today ruled that the witness must remove her niqab, or burqa face covering when she gives evidence to the jury.
The judge said she did not consider it appropriate that the witness give evidence with her face covered.
However she stressed she was not making a decision which was making a legal precedent, it was simply her ruling in these circumstances.
Earlier a defence lawyer had argued that the Muslim woman should remove her burqa to give evidence in the fraud trial, just as she would have to appear without the covering in an Islamic court.
But District Court Judge Shauna Deane rejected the argument as not relevant, as the matter is not being heard in an Islamic court.
The judge heard lawyers’ submissions on whether a 36-year-old Muslim woman should be allowed to wear a full burqa, also called a niqab, while giving evidence in a fraud trial.
The woman, an Islamic studies teacher, is due to give evidence for the prosecution in the fraud trial of a Muslim college director, Anwar Sayed.
In court, defence lawyer Mark Trowell, QC, said the woman’s wish to wear the burqa was a “preference she has”.
“It’s not an essential part of the Islamic faith. If she was in an Islamic court she would be required to remove it,” he aid.
Judge Deane replied: “This isn’t an Islamic court.”
Defence lawyers raised concerns about how the jury could be expected to read the woman’s facial expressions if they could not see her face.
Prosecutor Mark Ritter, SC, told the court the woman wanted to give evidence but would feel uncomfortable without the burqa and that could affect her evidence.
“It goes beyond stress . . . it would have a negative impact,” Mr Ritter said.
He said the woman, who has lived in Australia for seven years, had worn the burqa since the age of 17 and went without it only before her family and male blood relatives.
“Female modesty is a very important part of the religion,” he said.
What is at issue here is whether Islamic prescriptions of “modesty” trump Australian ones.
Tasneem was an Islamic studies teacher at the Muslim Ladies College of Australia in Kenwick, south of Perth, in 2006.
The school is run by Muslim Link Australia, and Sayed is the director.
He is accused of fraudulently obtaining up to $752,000 from a total of $1.125 million in state and federal grants for the school by falsifying entrance numbers.