One of the two 14-year old Muslim students that were banned from attending their Roman Catholic high school due to their facial hair has returned to school.
The students attended the private Mount Carmel Roman Catholic high school in Accrington, Lancashire, an area in Northwest England. The school’s uniform policy is that none of its pupils can grow facial hair, and the students were banned from attending school until they agreed to shave their beards.
Xavier Bowers, the head teacher at Mount Carmel, cited the European Convention of Human Rights as his reason for allowing the student to return. The Convention calls for exceptions to uniform and dress code policies on the basis of objection on religious grounds.
Under those provisions, the boys must prove their dedication to Islam, and demonstrate that their commitment to the faith is the reason that they have facial hair.
“[There] will be no change to the school rule which requires boys to be clean shaven. However, following discussions with leaders of the local community, exemptions will be made in certain clearly-defined circumstances. Governors have taken the decision to only allow Muslim boys permission to grow a beard as a sign of their faith as long as they have started the Hafiz program at a mosque,” Bowers said, insisting that the school’s policy had not changed, but that it would allow for justifiable exceptions.
This statement is a drastic turnaround from Bowers’ initial statement, which was that the boys’ facial hair was unconnected to their Muslim faith. “We have not taken this decision lightly,” Bowers said after sending the students home, “I have spent quite a lot of time researching the issue and speaking to Muslim elders. There is nothing specifically written in the Koran about wearing a beard. It is a choice those boys are making. However inclusive we are, we have standards to maintain.”
Bowers likely changed his mind after much criticism was hurled in his direction from those that deemed the decision to be discriminatory. The other of the two banned boys has yet to return to school.
A Hasidic New York Police Department recruit will head to court to fight for his job after being fired for refusing to trim his beard based on religious grounds.
Fishel Litzman will appear in Manhattan federal court on Thursday. His lawyer, Nathan Lewin, has a good deal of experience in religious rights cases.
“He very much so wants to get his job back,” Lewin said. “It’s always been his ambition to be a New York City police officer. He still has a very, very strong wish to serve as a New York City police officer.”
Litzman, 39, was fired last June — a month before he was supposed to graduate. According to the NYPD, he had ignored warnings about trimming his beard to within 1 millimeter in length.
As a Hasidic Jew, Litzman’s beliefs do not allow him to trim or cut his facial hair in any way, which was a situation he said the NYPD was aware of when he entered the academy, The New York Daily News reported.
City Assistant Corporation Counsel Keri Reid McNally said that was not the case and that Litzman was warned before entering the academy that the facial hair limit would be enforced. The city requires beards to be shaved in order for officers to be able to wear gas masks during counterterrorism drills.