Ontario Superior Court judge told that justice “cannot be veiled”

Permitting alleged victims or any witness to wear a veil while testifying would fundamentally change core principles in the Canadian justice system, an Ontario Superior Court judge was told yesterday. Defense lawyer Jack Pinkofsky claimed that, “The face of justice cannot be faceless.” Superior Court Justice Frank Marrocco has been asked to decide whether an alleged victim in a sexual-assault case in Toronto will be permitted to testify while wearing her niqab.

The provincial court judge presiding over the preliminary hearing of the two defendants ruled last fall that the woman’s religious beliefs were not that strong and ordered her to remove the veil. She refused and was granted the right to appeal the decision to the Superior Court. The Criminal Code permits witnesses such as alleged sexual-assault victims or children to testify by video or behind a one-way screen. In both situations, the defense lawyer and accused can see the witness. The woman’s lawyer explained that this would not be acceptable for his client because men could see her without the veil. The hearing is set to continue on April 3.

Police agents can take Muslim oath

Muslim police agents at the Central Holland police corps now have option to take a Muslim oath when joining the corps. Previously, police agents had two options for taking their oaths: “so help me God” and “I state and promise.” As of a few years ago, Muslims at the Corps could declare, with their right hand on the Quran, “in the name of Allah, the merciful, and he is my witness that I promise this.” Several have been surprised by this, including SGP parliament member Van der Staaij and International Affairs minister Ter Horst, who said that the practice must stop. However, a spokesperson for the Central Holland police corps has defended the Muslim oath variant.

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NRP (Dutch)

Reformatorisch Dagblad (Dutch)

Closing Submission in the First Trial of Alleged Member of the “Toronto 18”

Crown lawyer John Neander argued in his closing submissions at the first trial of an alleged member of the “Toronto 18” that it would be an “insult to reason” to think the man didn’t know what the group was about. He told the Superior Court Justice John Sproat that there was “a sheer superabundance of evidence” that the leaders were planning terrorism and that all others involved knew. A key witness had testified in the trial that the male youth was naïve and that the leaders kept him in the dark about their murderous aims. While the accused, a convert to Islam, might have initially thought the 12-day camp in December 2006 was a Muslim religious retreat, “In the midst of the camp, it would have been apparent what was going on – it was a terrorist camp.”

Charges have been stayed or withdrawn against seven arrested. The accused, who has pleaded not guilty, is the first of the remaining 11 to stand trial.

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Islamists sought “maximum carnage” in Barcelona attack

An Islamist terror cell dismantled in January in Barcelona has chosen the city’s subway system as a target for a series of suicide bombings in order to maximize the carnage and loss of life, according to the testimony from a protected witness. If we attack the metro (subway), the emergency services cannot get there one of the recently arrested men said. According to a witness, who police are calling F-1 in order to protect his identity, the plan for the attacks came from Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban leader in Pakistan’s Waziristan region. Mehsud is believed to be close to Osama bin Laden and has been blamed by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December of 2007.

Dutch Moroccan shot by police linked to ‘terror’ group: police

A mentally unstable man shot dead by police in Amsterdam after he knifed two officers had ties to the extremist group involved in the murder of Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh, police said Monday. Bilal B., a 22-year old Dutch citizen of Moroccan descent, was “interviewed as a witness after the arrest of members connected with the ‘Hofstad Group’ on October 14, 2005” officer Leo de Wit told a press conference. At the time seven people were arrested on suspicion of preparing attacks against Dutch government buildings. According to police, the seven were in close contact with the Hofstad Group, a previously dismantled “terror network”…

Fatwas and Modernity

By Sheikh Ali Gomaa {Sheikh Ali Gomaa is the Grand Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt – the second highest religious position in the country. He oversees the premier institution in the Muslim world for religious legal direction, Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah. This essay is distributed by Common Ground News Service.} Almost two years ago the citizens of London were victims of a great atrocity. Those who perpetrated those crimes would like you to believe that they were inspired by the religion of Islam. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is nothing in Islam that could ever justify these blatant acts of aggression. Islam calls on Muslims to be productive members of whatever society they find themselves in. Islam embodies a flexibility that allows Muslims to do so without any internal or external conflict. This is why we see a vast variety of cultural, artistic and civilisational phenomena all of which can be described as Islamic, ranging from the Taj Mahal in India to the winding streets of Fez to the poetry composed by English converts that represents not only the rigor of English verse, but also encompasses the beauty of Islamic piety. This flexibility is not just present in the cultural output of Muslims; it is an integral part of the Islamic legal tradition as well. In fact, you could say it is one of the defining characteristics of Islamic law. Islamic law is both a methodology and the collection of positions adopted by Muslim jurists over the last 1,400 years. Those centuries were witness to no less than 90 schools of legal thought, and the 21st century finds us in the providential position to look back on this tradition in order to find that which will benefit us today. This is one of the first steps in the issuing of a fatwa (religious opinion/ruling).

Muslim veils ‘should be allowed in court’

The wearing of the Muslim veil in court was backed by new official guidelines today. Senior judges who examined whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear the full facial covering, known as the niqab, said it should be decided on a case-by-case basis. Muslim women should be permitted to wear the garment providing it did not interfere with the administration of justice, the Judicial Studies Board’s Equal Treatment Advisory Committee said. The guidance follows a case at an immigration court in Stoke-on-Trent last November where the judge, George Glossop, ordered an adjournment because he was having difficulty hearing legal executive Shabnam Mughal. The guidelines said: Each situation should be considered individually in order to find the best solution in each case. Forcing a woman to choose between participating in a court case or removing the veil could have a significant impact on that woman’s sense of dignity, it added, and could serve to exclude and marginalise her. Committee chairwoman Mrs Justice Cox said: At the heart of our guidance is the principle that each situation should be considered individually in order to find the best solution in each case. We respect the right for Muslim women to choose to wear the niqab as part of their religious beliefs, although the interests of justice remain paramount. If a person’s face is almost fully covered, a judge may have to consider if any steps are required to ensure effective participation and a fair hearing – both for the woman wearing a niqab and for other parties in the proceedings. This is not an issue that lends itself to a prescriptive approach – we have drawn on a wealth of cases that demonstrate that, and we have drawn up guidance for different court personnel and parties. If the wearer is appearing as a victim, it should not be automatically assumed that the niqab would create a problem, the guidelines said. Nor should it ever be assumed without good reason that it is inappropriate for a woman to give evidence in court wearing the full veil, it added. If a judge felt it necessary to ask a victim to remove her veil, he or she should consider the request carefully, and be thoughtful and sensitive. The courtroom could even be cleared of anyone not directly involved in the case for her to proceed with her evidence, it said. Asking a witness or defendant to remove the garment may be appropriate but careful thought should be given to any such request, the guidelines said. Regarding a Muslim woman appearing as a barrister, solicitor or other advocate, judges should assume they are entitled to wear the veil, it went on. There are few instances where an advocate or representative appearing in a niqab would be likely to present any real issue, it said. Just as in any case where a judge might have difficulty in hearing any party, witness or advocate, sensitively inquiring whether they can speak any louder or providing other means of amplification should suffice and such measures should be considered with the advocate before asking her to remove her veil. Regarding jurors in niqabs, a judge may wish to consider excusing her if a challenge is made by one of the parties, it said, providing there is a genuine basis for the objection. The guidelines come after widespread concern over the wearing of the niqab in schools – by both children and staff – as well as in other areas. In February, a 12-year-old Muslim girl who wanted to wear a full-face veil in class lost her legal battle when a High Court judge dismissed a challenge to her school’s uniform policy. Mr Justice Silber rejected her claim that the school in Buckinghamshire had interfered with her right to freedom of religion under the Human Rights Convention.