Local Time

Monday, March 14, 2005

Muslim student wins fight over gown and Students get Free Hijab

Muslim student wins fight over gown: British court rules that a school's ban on religious attire violated teen's human rights
Source: Associated Press

LONDON -- A school violated a student's human rights by banning her from wearing a traditional Muslim gown to class, a British court ruled Wednesday, ending a more than two-year legal battle.

Assimilating Muslim students is a sensitive political issue in Europe, especially in France, which last year banned "conspicuous religious symbols," such as head scarves, from state schools. Britain allows individual schools to decide what form of dress is appropriate.

Shabina Begum, now 16, was sent home from school in Luton, north of London, in September 2002 for wearing the "jilbab," a long gown covering all of her body except her hands and face.

She first went to the High Court, arguing that the ban breached her right to religious freedom under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court rejected that argument in June. But a panel of three Court of Appeal judges ruled Wednesday that Shabina had been illegally excluded from the school, which "unlawfully denied her the right to manifest her religion."

The teenager was represented in her appeal by Cherie Booth, wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Muslim leaders welcomed the ruling that Denbigh High School had breached Shabina's right to freedom of religion. The school said it was trying to respect the views of all of its students -- and balance competing views of what is "appropriate" Muslim attire.

Shabina, who now attends a school that allows her to wear the jilbab, said the ruling was "a victory for all Muslims who wish to preserve their identity and values despite prejudice and bigotry."

"It is amazing that in the so-called free world, I have to fight to wear this attire," she said.

Four-fifths of Denbigh High's students are Muslims, and the school said its ban on the jilbab had the support of many students and parents, who looked to the school to protect children from influence of religious extremists.

The school argued that the jilbab posed a health and safety risk and might cause divisions among pupils, with those who wore traditional dress being seen as "better Muslims" than others. Pupils are allowed to wear trousers, skirts or a traditional "shalwar kameez," consisting of trousers and a tunic, and female students may wear head scarves.

Yasin Rehman of the Luton Council of Mosques said the school's existing dress code was "very satisfactory" and worried that the appeal court's ruling could complicate matters.

Sri Lankan Students get Free Hijabs

Colombo: (IINA): The Sri Lankan government has agreed to distribute hijabs free of cost to the Muslim girl students at the country’s schools according to a decision taken by the council of ministers which is mainly made up of Buddhists (75 per cent). Although the Muslim minority in the country represents 7 per cent or 20 million of the country’s population, it enjoys growing political influence and continues to attract the interest of the two main political parties in the country. The distribution of the free hijab is an offshoot of the government’s policy of subsidising school uniforms that has been in force for years now.

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