A city college has been forced to drop a controversial ban on Muslim face veils.
The prime minister, David Cameron, backed the decision, with his spokesman saying he believed educational institutions should be able to “set and enforce their own school uniform policies”.
But the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said he was “uneasy” about the ban and believed the bar had to be set “very high” to justify any prohibition on wearing a veil.
The college has now issued a statement saying it has decided to modify its stance to allow individuals to wear “specific items of personal clothing to reflect their cultural values”.
The decision came after thousands signed a petition against the ban and just before a planned protest by hundreds of students due on Friday in Birmingham.
More than 9,000 people signed an online petition set up by NUS Black Students’ Campaign calling on the college’s principal, Dr Christine Braddock, to remove the ban.
Aaron Kiely, NUS Black Students’ officer, said: “”This ban is a complete infringement on the rights to religious freedom and cultural expression and is a clear violation of a woman’s right to choose.”
He added: “We call on Birmingham Metropolitan College to reverse its decision and respect the fundamental rights of its diverse student population to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and cultural expression.”
A statement on the college’s Facebook page on Thursday night said: “”We are concerned that recent media attention is detracting from our core mission of providing high-quality learning. As a consequence, we will modify our policies to allow individuals to wear specific items of personal clothing to reflect their cultural values.
“The college will still need to be able to confirm an individual’s identity in order to maintain safeguarding and security.
“The necessity to comply with national regulations, examination board requirements and applicable legislation will remain an overriding priority in all circumstances, as will the need to ensure that effective teaching and learning methodologies are applied.
“We have listened to the views of our students and we are confident that this modification to our policies will meet the needs of all of our learners and stakeholders.”
Birmingham Ladywood Labour MP Shabana Mahmood welcomed the change.
She said: “This change in policy is enormously welcome. The college has made a wise decision to rethink its policy on banning veils for a group of women who would have potentially been excluded from education and skills training at the college had the ban been enforced.”
source: Guardian UK