OCKENDON left wing councillor Aaron Kiely has won a battle to force a college to drop its ban on students wearing full facial veils.
The U-turn came in the face of a planned mass demonstration against ‘Islamophobia’ and an online petition signed by 9,000 reports the Daily Mail.
The niqab ban had been in place at Birmingham Metropolitan College for eight years without protest. But an anonymous prospective student complained to her local paper, saying she was being discriminated against.
Birmingham Metropolitan College had banned students from wearing burkas for eight years before the turn around this week
When the story broke it sparked claims of racism and even rumours that the college was planning to ban prayer on its premises.
Late on Thursday, the college climbed down and ‘modified’ the ruling against veils, hoodies and hats, which had been brought in to ensure students were always ‘easily identifiable’.
The petition, which gained 9,000 signatures was organised by the Ockendon councillor Aaron Kiely.
Whilst cllr Kiely has been criticised in Thurrock for his poor attendance at council meetings and his lack of profile in his ward, for which he is paid an £8,000 allowance, he seems to have been very busy in his role as a National Union of Students officer, for which he is paid £20,000.
Tory MP Philip Hollobone, who is championing a law to ban face coverings in public, said he was sorry the college had ‘caved in’.
The college, which is the third largest in the UK, with 44,000 students, insisted the policy was designed to protect students.
Staff at Birmingham Metropolitan College, said in the past the rules were in place for ‘security reasons’
It stopped female Muslim pupils from wearing the niqab, the full facial veil in which only the eyes are visible, or the burqa where the eye area is covered in mesh.
The policy was attacked by local councillors, MPs and the NUS Black Students’ Campaign, headed by Mr Kiely.
More than 800 people were expected to attend a protest yesterday, however late on Thursday night the college posted a statement on its Facebook page.
Cllr Kiely, 24, yesterday thanked supporters, adding: ‘We can’t be complacent though as Prime Minister David Cameron signalled that he supported the college’s decision to ban students from wearing veils.
‘That is why we must always be ready to unite together to defend our fundamental human rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and cultural expression.’
In a key 2007 case, a High Court judge rejected a bid by a pupil to be allowed to wear the niqab in class.
Afterwards, the Department for Education issued guidance that enabled headteachers to ban full-face veils on grounds of security, safety or learning.