Muslim Student Veil Ban Reversed: Birmingham Metropolitan College Backs Down After Outcry

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VEIL BAN REVERSED
Woman wearing niqab and hijab, portrait | Getty

A college's controversial ban on Muslim face veils has been reversed after an outcry involving thousands of students and the Deputy Prime Minister.

In a statement on Thursday night, Birmingham Metropolitan College said it had modified its stance to allow people "specific items of personal clothing to reflect their cultural values".

The local MP welcomed the "wise decision".

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The original ruling, that students must remove all hoodies, hats, caps and veils while on the premises so that they were easily identifiable, sparked protests, with 9,000 students signing a petition.

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 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's u-turn came ahead of a planned protest by hundreds of students which was due to take place today in Birmingham.

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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.

A statement posted on the college's Facebook page on Thursday night said: "Birmingham Metropolitan College is committed to high quality education for all of our learners.

"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.

"We remain committed to ensuring that students are provided with a safe and welcoming environment and the best education and training opportunities available."

Birmingham Ladywood Labour MP Shabana Mahmood welcomed the college's change in policy.

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.

"My thanks go out to all those who backed the campaign."