A Muslim teaching assistant who refused to remove her veil during lessons yesterday said minorities were treated as "outcasts" in Britain after her claims of discrimination and harassment were dismissed.
Aishah Azmi, aged 24, criticised Tony Blair and Cabinet Ministers who had intervened in the row as part of the ongoing debate about the ways Muslims integrate into British society.
Mrs Azmi said she was "fearful of the consequences for Muslim women in this country who want to work" but urged Muslims to engage in dialogue with the wider community despite "the attacks that are being made upon them".
An employment tribunal dismissed three of Aishah Azmi’s claims of discrimination and harassment but found that she was victimised by Headfield Church of England Junior School in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, and awarded her #1,000 for "injury to feelings".
Kirklees Council suspended her after she refused to remove her veil while teaching at the school.
The school said face-to-face communication was essential for Ms Azmi’s job as a bilingual support worker.
Mrs Azmi said: "Muslim women who wear the veil are not aliens, and politicians need to recognise that what they say can have a very dangerous impact on the lives of the minorities they treat as outcasts."
Mrs Azmi, of Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury, remains suspended on full pay from the school. She said she was willing to remove her veil in front of children – but not when male colleagues were present.
Mr Blair said the veil row was part of a necessary debate about the way the Muslim community integrates into British society and said the veil was a "mark of separation" which makes people of other ethnic backgrounds feel uncomfortable.
The intervention by a series of politicians, which culminated in Mr Blair’s remarks, were criticised by the tribunal.