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R (Begum) v. Headteacher and Governors of Denbigh High School

United Kingdom House of Lords
(2006) UKHL 15


Facts

Shabina Begum (plaintiff) was a 16-year-old Muslim student at Denbigh High School, a predominantly Muslim school. The school authorities (defendants) had instituted a dress code that allowed students to choose between three uniform options, including the shalwar kameez, a traditional South Asian garment. The dress-code policy was adopted after the school authorities considered input from local mosques, parents, and community groups in order to implement an inclusive policy. Begum requested permission to instead wear a jilbab, a looser-fitting gown, contending that the shalwar kameez was too close fitting and did not comport with her Muslim faith. The school officials denied Begum’s request, stating that the uniform options provided in the dress code were chosen to create a socially cohesive environment respectful of religious and cultural differences among students. Begum brought suit, alleging a violation of the United Kingdom’s human-rights laws, which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The high court found for the defendants. Begum appealed, and the court of appeal reversed. The defendants appealed to the House of Lords.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hale, J.)

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