NEW proposals allowing headteachers the right to ban its Muslim pupils from wearing full-faced veils have been described as “shocking” by one prominent British Muslim leader.
Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), made the comment just hours after news of the new government proposals were reported by the media.
Education Secretary Alan Johnson ushered in the new guidelines after a 12-year-old girl lost a legal challenge against her school’s decision not to allow her permission to wear the full-face Niqab at her Buckinghamshire school last month.
The case is just one of many which have seen schools taken to the High Court over the right to wear certain religious garments.
The revised uniform guidelines were put into action after the Buckinghamshire school successfully argued that the veil hampered communication between teachers and pupils.
But Mr Shadjareh warned the government the measures would be “counter productive”.
He also said it was “simply shocking” that the government did not discuss the issue with the Muslim community.
“IHRC is concerned that these guidelines will be counter productive. There was no consultation with the Muslim community before introducing these guidelines,” he said.
“Successive ministers dealing with education issues have failed to give proper guidance when requested by human rights campaigners about schools’ obligations regarding religious dress, including the head scarf, and other service delivery under human rights laws and norms.
“To now proceed to issue guidance against Muslim communities is simply shocking. Although these guidelines affect a small section of the Muslim community, they could force Muslims to withdraw their children from schools enforcing the ban and teach them at home or enrol them in Muslim-only school.”
Although the guidelines state that headteachers should try to tolerate a wide range of religious and cultural items of clothing, it does give them the right to ban the veil if it is felt they impede safety, security or the ability to learn.