A 4-year-old Muslim girl in the UK has been banned from wearing a hijab by a Roman Catholic school under a strict uniform policy, sparking a massive row on social media.
The unnamed child was told by staff at St Clare’s School in Handsworth, Birmingham, that she should not wear her hijab to lessons.
The school has a strict uniform policy, including no headwear or scarf and asked parents of the girl to respect it.
The girl’s father called on Birmingham City Council’s Labour cabinet member for equalities Waseem Zaffar to intervene causing the row to erupt.
The row has now divided senior councillors and women’s rights activists who have been locked in a feud over facebook and twitter, the Birmingham Mail reported.
Zaffar wrote that he had met with the head teacher and told her the ban on the scarf was against the equalities act.
“I’m insisting this matter is addressed asap with a change of policy,” he said.
However, his cabinet colleague Majid Mahmood countered that as a faith school St Clare’s is “maybe within its rights to insist upon a particular dress code,” just as a Muslim faith school “may require girls to wear headscarves”.
Mashuq Ally, a former head of equalities for Birmingham City Council, agreed saying there is no religious requirement for girls of infant school age to wear the hijab.
He also pointed out that a faith school is allowed to set its own uniform policy and exempt from discrimination legislation.
Where there are demographic changes which lead to a significant number of Muslim children attending a Christian school, then the parents should ask the school governors to consider changing the uniform policy, he said.
Campaigner Gina Khan attacked Zaffar on twitter, accusing him of backing parents who enforce the hijab on little girls as a means of control.
Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children, families and schools, was quoted as saying, “Each school’s governing body is responsible for the creation and implementation of its own uniform policy. However, the local authority is supporting the school to ensure its policy is appropriate, in line with legal requirements, and we are engaging with all schools to remind them of their responsibilities when it comes to setting school uniform policies.”