- April 2005 : Islamic dress at school
The Court of Appeals has ruled that a Muslim schoolgirl who was not permitted to wear the jilbab (a full-length gown) was excluded from school unlawfully. It overturned the judgment of a lower court in favour of the school.
The student, Shabina Begum, attended a school where the headteacher and 79% of the students are Muslim. Girls are permitted to wear the shalwar kameez (trousers and tunic) and headscarves if desired as their school uniform. The school authorities did not allow Ms Begum to wear the jilbab, which she wished to do for religious reasons.
The Court accepted that the school had a right to require a uniform, but held that it had failed to consider the human rights claimed by the student that are also recognised in law. Indeed, the school was required to justify any interference with those rights, which it had failed to do. "Instead, it started from the premise that its uniform policy was there to be obeyed : if the claimant did not like it, she could go to a different school," Lord Justice Brooke said. He added, however : "Nothing in this judgment should be taken as meaning that it would be impossible for the school to justify its stance if it were to reconsider its uniform policy in the light of this judgement and were to determine not to alter it in any significant respect."
The decision was based on article 9 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
- March 2005 : The death of the Pope
The death of Pope John Paul II had an unexpected impact in the UK. The Prime Minister delayed announcing the date of the general election as a mark of respect, and Prince Charles (the heir to the throne) postponed his marriage in order to attend the funeral. The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican church, reportedly decided that he would go to Rome rather than officiate at the royal nuptials. None of these signs of deference to a Pope would have been made in the past, and some commentators have announced "the strange death of Protestant England" (Mark Almond, The Guardian) or alternatively, "It’s as if the Reformation had never happened" (Martin Kettle, The Guardian).