US judges can order removal of Muslim veil

Judges can demand witnesses to remove their facial covering to assess identity and demeanor

Judges in the United States can now order a veiled woman witness to remove her face covering to testify in court, according to a new court ruling issued last week that has human rights groups worried about potential discrimination against veiled Muslim women.

In a majority 5-2 vote, Michigan’s Supreme Court ruled that judges should “exercise reasonable control” over the appearances of witnesses to judge their body language and facial expressions and to ensure proper identification.

The new ruling was passed following the 2006 Hamtramck case, in which Ginnah Mohammad, a Detroit Muslim woman who wore the full face veil known as the niqab, refused to testify in court after Judge Paul Paruk asked her to remove her facial covering in order to determine whether she spoke the truth.

Mohammed sued Paruk in federal court and her case was dismissed. The Michigan Judges Association and Michigan District Judges Association then requested a court ruling giving judges authority over a witness’s attire.

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