Muslim lawyer ordered to stand up

By our news desk

The Netherlands bar association's disciplinary council has reprimanded a Muslim lawyer who refuses to stand up for the judge.

Rotterdam lawyer Mohammed Enait, an orthodox Muslim, claims his faith does not allow him to stand up for a judge, because all people are equal under Islam. However, the disciplinary council ruled on Monday that Enait's behaviour was unacceptable, as is the Muslim taqiyah cap he inists on wearing in court. It also condemned his public criticism of a court verdict.

Enait first made headlines in 2006 when he was turned down for a job at Rotterdam's city council because he refused to shake hands with women, also on religious grounds.

As a result of Monday's decision, Enait will be suspended if he persists in refusing to stand up for the judge. Enait has already indicated that he has no intention of complying with the council's decision, and if necessary he is prepared to take his case to the European court of human rights.

In the meantime, Enait intends to avoid the problem by pleading only minor cases where he is not required to rise.

Enait claims he is "fighting for the rights of orthodox Muslims". He says he is "a victim of political persecution".

A Rotterdam court last year ruled in favour of Enait, arguing that an exception could be made on the basis of deep religious conviction. But the judge was later overruled by the council for the judiciary, which said all lawyers must demonstrate their respect for the rule of law and exceptions are not acceptable.

The initial ruling was heavily criticised by members of the Dutch parliament at the time. "It is unacceptable that one individual with extreme beliefs can challenge [our] general rules of conduct," said Christian democrat Sybrand van Haersma Buma.

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