The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) slammed new government guidelines spelling out the right of school heads to ban pupils from wearing religious dress such as the Islamic veil as “simply shocking” on Tuesday.
Education Secretary Alan Johnson has drawn up the updated guidance. The change follows defeat for a 12-year-old girl in a legal battle to wear the full-face niqab in class in her Buckinghamshire school last month. A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said that the government was not trying to impose a blanket ban on veils at schools.
But IHRC chairman Massoud Shadjareh said that he was “dismayed” at the guidelines. “Successive ministers, dealing with education issues, have failed to give proper guidance when requested by human rights campaigners about schools’ obligations regarding religious dress, including the head scarf, and other service delivery under human rights laws and norms. To now proceed to issue guidance against Muslim communities is simply shocking,” he added.
Muslim Council of Britain education spokesman Tahir Alam played down the significance of the new guidelines. He argued that “the matter still remains with the governing bodies and communities to resolve.”
Morning Star, 21 March 2007