I'd rather kill myself than remove veil, woman tells court

A Muslim woman has told a court she would rather kill herself than give evidence without wearing a veil.

Fouzya Salim was questioned for an hour and a half today at the Auckland District Court on why she should be allowed to continue wearing the veil when she gives evidence in an insurance fraud case.

Judge Lindsay Moore has agreed to permit the veil during today's hearing before deciding whether to allow it when he hears the case.

Defence lawyer Colin Amery does not want Mrs Salim or Feraiba Razamjoo - the sister of his client - to wear veils when they give evidence against Abdul Razamjoo.

The women wear burqas whenever they are outside the home, but Mr Amery said the court could not assess the women's demeanour as they gave evidence if their faces were covered.

But Mrs Salim today told the court: "I would rather kill myself than uncover my face and sit here."

She said it would be too embarrassing to appear in public with her face uncovered. She also expressed discomfort at being in the same room as the defendant.

Her husband yesterday said that the wearing of veils was a part of Muslim culture. "It's our tradition, our religion, our culture. We have to respect and try to protect it," Mr Salim said.

His wife, who was born in Afghanistan, always wore her burqa in public. She would consider venturing out without it only in an extreme emergency.

She did not cover her face inside the home, but none of Mr Salim's male friends or extended family were allowed to see her. When visitors came, men and women sat in different rooms.

If Mr Razamjoo did see Mrs Salim's face, it would be the ultimate embarrassment for the entire Salim family, ruining their reputation and dignity.

The hearing continues.