The Right to Confront and the Slave's Hood
Michigan Supreme Court Weighs Coutroom Limits on Religious Dress
The Michigan state supreme court will decide whether a trial judge should have allowed a Muslim woman to testify in court while wearing a niqab, a religious head covering that leaves only a small opening for the eyes. In 2006, Judge Paul Paruk dismissed the civil action Ginnah Muhammad brought against a car rental company when she refused to remove her veil and head scarf, saying he could not gauge her truthfulness without seeing her face.
At the Supreme Court on Monday, Paruk had the sympathy of at least a couple Justices - one who cited the trial court's need to make credibility determinations, and another who called for balancing religious freedoms with the constitutional rights of defendants to confront their accusers in court.
Beyond the tricky constitutional questions is this very real practical concern presented to the court by anti-domestic violence advocates: whether an order to unveil will discourage Muslim woman who are abused from pursuing charges against their abuser in court.
Howard Friedman at Religion Clause describes a number of controversies in recent years where Muslim women have been asked to remove their niqab.
-Kathleen A. Bergin