A Muslim woman who has been ordered to remove her burqa while giving evidence in court wants to thank people for their understanding.

Fouzya Salim said a ruling released yesterday forced her to show her face while giving evidence - but she would be shielded from the public and defendant, and that was a fair compromise.

"I want to say thanks to the people of New Zealand for understanding our cultural sensitivities and for having respect for our customs.

"Also, special thanks to the judge for making a fair decision that made it easy for me and other Muslim women to give evidence in the future."

Mrs Salim said in October that she would rather kill herself than remove her burqa in front of Abdul Razamjoo, the man she and another Muslim woman are due to give evidence against next month in an insurance fraud case.

The Herald received dozens of letters from people who felt the women, who emigrated from Afghanistan 10 years ago, should abide by New Zealand laws and remove their burqas in court.

Defence lawyer Colin Amery argued that he needed to be able to see the women's faces in order to assess their demeanour.

If their faces were covered, Mr Amery said, he could not tell if the women were telling the truth and that could jeopardise his client's right to a fair trial.

Judge Lindsay Moore said it would be contrary to the interests of justice to require the women to expose their faces to the public or the defendant.

However, he also ruled that "authorising the giving of evidence from beneath what is effectively a hood or mask would be such a major departure from accepted process and the values of a free and democratic society as to seriously risk bringing the court into disrepute".

The women will be able to sit behind a screen and cover their hair with a scarf or hat but they must show their faces to the judge, lawyers and female court staff.

Mr Amery said the decision was a partial victory.

"We have got women who have to show their faces albeit in a rather unusual way in this type of case.

"This is only a minor fraud charge and we are getting the use of screens which are used in sexual cases, sometimes in gang cases and I suppose you could have it in a security case," Mr Amery said.

The prosecution was not available last night but Senior Constable Martyn Renouf, the officer in charge of the case, said the decision was fair.

Paul Morris, a professor of religious studies at Victoria University of Wellington, said the ruling was the best compromise.

Part of the women's faith dictated that only men who were close relatives could see their uncovered faces.

Professor Morris said he expected to see similar challenges in the future as the country became more racially diverse.