When people wear certain garments because of their religion, most of us agree that they should be allowed to do so. Because religion is a deeply personal experience, people act out their religion differently than others might. And depending on what religion a person follows, they need to follow different rules and modes of dress. For example, some Muslim women wear hijabs as a way of honoring their religion and cultural traditions.
In East London, the headteacher of the St. Stephens’ School for girls has banned the wearing of hijabs for girls who are under the age of eight. The woman responsible for the dramatic rule is Neena Lall, and she has faced a lot of criticism for banning the religious headdress.
Because of her actions, people in the community have referred to her as Hitler. However, Islam does not require a girl to wear a hijab until she reaches puberty. That’s why Lall believed that if a little girl had not yet reached that stage in her development, why should she be required to wear a hijab in class? Lall believed that forcing a pre-pubescent girl to wear the religious headdress created an unnecessary divide among the students and did not serve a religious purpose.
While the hijab is a part of Islam for women who have reached puberty, it is not a requirement for little girls.
Because two-thirds of the students at St. Stephen’s School are Muslim, many parents were outraged at the headteacher’s ban.
Many people complained about Lall’s rule, and the school demanded that she reverse her decision to ban the hijab from the young girls.
Online abusers were partly responsible for the change in rules. Besides calling her Hitler, they also branded her a “pedophile” and a “racist bigot.”
While internet attackers did not hold back any punches, the Muslim Engagement and Development and the area’s Labor councilors had their say about the school ruling as well.
Because people were outraged that Lall was trying to change the dress code at her all-girls school, a petition was started. Before long, it got more than 20,000 signatures all calling for the hijab ban to stop.
Parents who supported the wearing of hijab came up with a slogan and picketed the school. They held signs and printed T-shirts that said, “Hands off our hijab.”
Lall holds the views that fundamentalist Muslims do not support academic excellence at St. Stephen’s because they put cultural and religious practices first.
While the ruling was a controversial change to the school’s dress code, the lead inspector of schools Ms. Speilman, supported Lall’s change to the dress code.
She said, “It is undoubtedly true . . . that there are segments of particular faiths, who are determined to use our schools to promote beliefs and practices that are anathema to British values. Schools must not allow pressure from certain elements of school communities to dictate policy.”
Lall came from a family of Sikhs and grew up in the United Kingdom.
What do you think about her banning hijabs in the classroom for young girls?