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Would a hijab showing a Union flag be OK? School hijab ban suggests being Muslim and British are incompatible

Would a hijab showing a Union flag be OK? School hijab ban suggests being Muslim and British are incompatible

Categories: Latest News

Wednesday January 17 2018

The Independent reports that St Stephen’s, a top primary school in the borough of Newham, has banned girls under the age of eight from wearing the hijab in school, as well as forbidding Muslim pupils from fasting on school days during Ramadan.

St Stephen’s head teacher, Neena Lall, said the changes had been made to help integrate children into British society.

“A couple of years ago I asked the children to put their hands up if they thought they were British,” she said.

“Very few children put up their hands. Very few thought they were British. So I thought, okay we’ve got some work to do here.”

Head of governors, Arif Qawi, admitted being advised by clerics who said pupils should only fast once they reach puberty. He added: “We are responsible for their health and safety if they pass out on campus. It is not fair to us.”

St Stephen’s’ website lists “a plain, small, shoulder length slip on white headscarf” as optional for girls in Year 3 or above.

While St Stephen’s primary school has called on the government for official guidance, this move plays directly into damaging narratives suggesting that a Muslim identity is directly oppositional to a British identity – in other words, you can’t be Muslim and British.

Furthermore, this development comes just months after  Chief Inspector of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, announced that inspectors will be allowed to question primary school girls who wear a hijab. Ms Spielman’s comments have caused grave distress throughout British Muslim communities and potentially have severe repercussions impacting the rights and wellbeing of Muslim children and parents.

Ultimately, such focus on the hijab as damaging to integration sends a damaging message to Muslim girls who wear the hijab, and is indicative of the structural discrimination that Muslim girls face from a very early age, and which will continue to impact them throughout their adolescence and adulthood. Stigmatising young Muslim girls for wearing the hijab at such an early age can only serve to fuel the perception that Muslim women are negatively judged and stereotyped on the basis of the clothes they wear, as opposed to the skills, qualities and talents they have to offer.

MEND is extremely concerned with these developments and has been in touch with both the school and Muslim parents. We will be issuing an update on the situation shortly. 

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