Saturday, October 24, 2009

Spain's schools start questioning Muslim dress

Four months ago I said in a previous blog about France that “in Spain it has not (yet) got to the point of banning the veil.

Now it appears that it has reached this point.

Senén Olano a resident of Lugo in the Galicia region complains in this Letter to the Editor about the case of a pupil at a public high school in Lugo who had been asked by the directors of the school to stop attending classes for the past month. Allegedly, this was due to her refusal to take off her hijab or headscarf.

He goes on to say: “What the media did not mention so often was that the school board had asked the Galician regional education department for advice on the matter, receiving silence for an answer.

Now it appears that the girl attends class with her ‘hijab’, which is not only a garment with a clear religious significance in a country with a secular tradition, but also one which, historically and culturally, reflects the oppression of women by men in Islamic culture and contravenes habitual customs in our classrooms. Such cases will become more and more frequent and a clear and uniform response is what is needed. Public officials are paid to make such decisions, so it’s time they got to work.

I agree with Mr Olano about only one of the points that he raises. A “uniform response” is needed.

That response should be that all public schools allow their students and staff to wear whatever clothes they wish to, as long as those clothes do not display offensive slogans (such as: “Ban the hijab!”)

As a (tolerant) atheist, I worked in an Islamic school in Australia for several months and was never told to change my usual work clothes to anything more pious or Muslim-like.

I would question why the writer of that letter, Mr Olano, does not explain which “habitual customs in our classrooms” are being contravened.

I also wonder whether he has had more than a fleeting involvement with any Muslim.

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