When I read yesterday that a Muslim woman had been ejected from the Hastings District Court for wearing a headscarf, I was outraged. It's a classic case of Islamophobia - they would never even dream of ejecting a Christian nun, or a Sikh, for example - which sent a clear message to New Zealand's Muslim community that they are not welcome in the courts and hence beyond the protection of the law. The Islamophobia is bad enough, but a judge sending that message is now deeply, deeply stupid.
Fortunately, the judge has now admitted he made a mistake, claiming that it was all a misunderstanding based on someone's previous refusal to remove a hat in court. But this doesn't make him look much better - rather than being Islamophobic, he's simply so totally ignorant of Islamic dress that he thinks its "just a hat". That's just unacceptable in a judge who has to deal with Muslims in his courtroom. He desperately, desperately, needs a cultural sensitivity course.
Meanwhile, we might also want to look at the judicial despotism which allowed this incident to happen. Yes, judges need to be able to keep order in court. But enforcing nineteenth-century social etiquette and hierarchy goes well beyond this (not least because no modern New Zealander sees the failure to remove a hat as any sort of insult to anyone). We're not that sort of country, we never wanted to be, and we shouldn't be. And if the judiciary is going to abuse its power to try and make us like that, then that power needs to be removed.