A primary school teacher on the island of Mathiveri in Alif Alif atoll was sacked on Thursday for refusing to take off her niqab, or full-face veil, in compliance with a civil service dress code.
Aishath Suzy, 30, was fired “for violating the guideline in reference to the 2014 Civil Service Commission regulation and the Civil Service Commission law,” according to her dismissal notice issued on August 10.
The niqab is banned under the guideline, which states that civil servants “must be dressed in a manner that makes them easily identifiable”.
Suzy’s dismissal came after she was warned by the education ministry earlier this. The first-grade teacher was sent home on January 24 because she arrived at work dressed in the niqab.
“If the primary school teacher, Aishath Suzy, continues to report to work, we request the school to inform her to report to work in an identifiable manner,” read the education ministry’s notice to the principal of Mathiveri school.
The parents of Suzy’s 18 students meanwhile took their children home when the school failed to send a substitute teacher to take her class.
“There was no teacher. So we all took our kids home and went straight to the island council’s office afterwards,” a parent who asked to remain anonymous, told the Maldives Independent.
Suzy is one of four women in Mathiveri who wears the niqab. The island’s population is approximately 450.
She previously told the Maldives Independent that she had worn the niqab to work throughout last year without any problem.
“I wore the niqab in November 2015. For all of last year, I wore it to work. No one asked me any questions,” Suzy had said.
The Mathiveri island council meanwhile tried to mediate between the government, Civil Service Commission and the parents of the grade one students over the matter.
“We all know who she is. She shows her face to the kids. She only wears [the niqab] inside the classroom because the room can be seen from the streets,” Ismail Athif, president of the council, said at the time.
In February, a group of clerics challenged the constitutionality of the niqab ban at the High Court. The lawsuit followed an uproar over the education ministry sacking a teacher for wearing the face-covering veil to school.
Thahmeena Mahmoud was fired from her job at the Alif Alif Atoll Education Center on January 30 after the school repeatedly warned her to remove her niqab.
Earlier in January, the Islamic ministry published an action plan at the conclusion of a three-day religious conference, which stated: “wearing the niqab, growing the beard and keeping one’s lower garments at ankle-length are permitted in Islam and do not constitute as extremism.”
In September last year, several immigration officers were sacked for refusing on religious grounds to trim their beards and lower the hem of their trousers below the ankles.
The Employment Tribunal has since upheld the decision after the former officers contended that they were unfairly dismissed.
The High Court is due to hear an appeal of the tribunal’s ruling.