UK minister backs right to ban hijab in schools

UK minister backs right to ban hijab in schools

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LONDON: An Indian-origin school principal, who was forced to withdraw a ban on wearing of hijab by young girls after vitriolic abuse on social media, on Saturday received crucial support of a UK minister who said bullying or intimidation of school staff was completely unacceptable.
Lord Theodore Agnew, minister for schools systems, faith and counter-extremism in education, also said that schools in the country were completely within their right to make decisions on how to run their institutions in the best interests of their pupils.
Neena Lall, an Indian-origin principal of the St Stephen’s Primary School in east London, met with strong opposition, faced abuse on social media and even likened to German dictator Adolf Hitler for her decision to impose a ban on wearing of hijab by girls under eight last month. Later, she withdrew the decision.
A governor at the school, Arif Qawi, resigned amid the stiff opposition and had urged the UK government to spell out school uniform policies more clearly.
The minister also threw his support behind schools in the country that want to impose a ban on wearing of hijab or religious fasting by very young pupils.
“They are completely within their right to make decisions on how to run their schools in the best interests of their pupils – in line with the law and in discussion with parents, of course – and we back their right to do so,” Agnew wrote in ‘The Times’ in reference to Lall.
“St Stephen’s Primary School in east London has been at the centre of media attention after its ban on young pupils wearing the hijab and fasting during Ramadan. I have seen the vitriolic abuse on social media after this decision and read of the intimidation of staff, resulting in the resignation of the chairman of governors… I wanted to send out a clear message: bullying or intimidation of school staff is completely unacceptable,” he wrote.
The minister responsible for counter-extremism in the Department for Education said the government would not allow a “culture of fear and intimidation to pass through the school gates” and that any opposition to decisions by a school’s governing body should manifest itself in the form of sensible, informed discussion and not hateful online reaction.
Earlier this month, the UK’s independent schools watchdog – the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) – had also came out in support of the school’s right to set its own uniform policy.

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