Tuesday, June 17, 2008

When Religious Head Covering Is Not a Problem

"The Hijab 'controversy' that isn't"
RTE News, Ireland

"RTE's Education and Science Correspondent Emma O Kelly finds that the recent 'controversy' over the Hajib in schools is a media creation." Read the entire article at the title link above. Below are some quotes from the article:

In the midst of all the articles, opinion pieces and polls in newspapers and elsewhere about the wearing of the Hijab by pupils in schools here, one crucial point appears to be being lost: within the schools themselves, it is currently not an issue of any real concern.

In one way that's probably not so surprising. After all, for generations the Veil has played a central role in education here. Countless generations of Irish children have been educated in Irish schools by Irish women wearing veils. Some still are. The only difference now is that its pupils, not teachers, who are covering their heads, and they're not Catholic, they're Muslim.

In the schools where this is happening, it's no big deal. Where I have discussed the matter with schools, they tell me no permission was given to a particular pupil to wear the veil, but only because permission was never sought. These schools see it as a private matter, to do with tolerance and the right to religious expression.

. . .

Some commentators have referred to the banning of the Hijab in schools in France. The French ban followed intense and bitter debate and controversy there. One may agree or disagree with that decision, but Ireland cannot be compared to France. The French education system is a secular one and it is on that basis that the Hijab, along with other overt religious symbols, was banned.

Our education system is of course the complete opposite - and a ramble down the corridors of many of our secondary and primary schools will testify to this.

There among the crucifixes and statues of the Virgin Mary you're likely to see the faces of countless women, some smiling, some stern, wearing some of the most outrageous and ostentatious headgear you are ever likely to see.

I began this article by saying that the wearing of the Veil or Hijab is 'currently' not an issue of concern in Irish schools. It would be deeply regrettable if a media-driven debate, that's taking place outside the reality of student and school experience, were to make it one.
[Emphases mine - LisaM]
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