In a controversial move, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that judges can force Muslim women to take off their headscarves in court. The law says they can exercise “reasonable control over the appearance of parties and witnesses” so that the “demeanor of such persons may be observed and assessed by the fact-finder and ensure the accurate identification.” Translation of the legal mumbo jumbo: they have to take off their headscarves so the judge can be sure they’re actually who they say they are.This move came after a 2006 case in which Ginnah Muhammad filed a suit in small claims court. When the woman showed up, she was wearing a “niqab,” which covered everything but her eyes. The judged asked her to take it off and said, “I can’t see certain things about your demeanor and temperament that I need to see in a court of law.” When Muhammad refused, her case was dismissed.
Ginnah counter-sued, but her case sort of backfired. The new law doesn’t just affect Muslims, but allows judges to rule on what people of all different faiths are sporting when they walk into the court room. [CNN]
What do you think. Is this ruling OK because judges and jury members really do need to see someone’s face while they testify? Or is this a gross case of the legal system being religiously insensitive, a la swearing on the Bible?