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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

19 SEP 2011

Imagining Islam ... of meaning and metaphor symbolising the jilbab - R (Begum) v Headteacher and Governors of Denbigh High School [2007] CFLQ 247

Susan Edwards

Legal Academic and Barrister

This commentary examines the decision of the House of Lords in R (Begum) v Headteacher and Governors of Denbigh High School in which the majority held that Shabina Begum's right to and manifestation of religious belief was not infringed. I consider first whether the current case and the Strasbourg jurisprudence upon which the House of Lords relied interpret the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950 in a way that protects or undermines religious freedom. Secondly, I consider how far and to what extent the principle of ‘Gillick competence' and the applicant's right to self-determination formed a part of their Lordships' deliberations. Thirdly, I consider to what extent the family dynamics of the applicant were considered by the House. Finally, I consider whether in their understanding of dress code and its application in their imaginings of Islam, the courts too readily accepted evidence that viewed the shalwa kameeze as archetypal of Islamic dress, and also too readily accepted as true the meaning which Ms Begum attached to the jilbab.

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