Parents fear reaction over hijab issue
June 06, 2008
THE PARENTS of the teenage girl whose request to wear the hijab at school led her principal to call for official guidelines on the wearing of the headscarf in State schools have written to Minister for Integration Conor Lenihan expressing concern over calls for a ban on the practice.
Labour Party education spokesman Ruairi Quinn, and his Fine Gael counterpart Brian Hayes, said at the weekend that they were opposed to the wearing of the hijab in schools.
Liam Egan and his wife Beverley McKenzie-Egan wrote to Mr Lenihan after becoming concerned over the tone of the debate triggered by the case.
In the letter, seen by The Irish Times, the couple highlight "calls by certain parties for a ban on such a religious practice" and say the demand for guidelines on the issue has resulted in "an upsurge" of anti-Muslim feeling. "As the parents of the young woman unwillingly caught up in the centre of this furore we of course have a vested interest in ensuring her continued right to education without discrimination. Any changes to the existing legislation could have a detrimental effect on that intrinsic right. The hijab facilitates our daughter's education, expedites the possibility of future employment and assists participation in society," the letter states.
"Clearly any such ban would violate the right to religious freedom, a right enshrined in the Irish Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as well as other international documents and standards. It would violate a Muslim woman's . . . rights to an education, subsequently it would impinge on her right to work, and this will either force Muslim women to the margins of Irish society or force them to violate their own principles to enjoy what should be their basic rights to education and work. Neither option is tenable or desirable.
"With the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment riding on the crest of an impending downturn in the economy - Muslims have become an easy target. It will take a courageous individual to look beyond this and ensure that the rights of the individual take precedence over the scare mongering that has typified most responses to this innocuous piece of cloth."
Mr Lenihan has said it is up to schools to set their own rules on dress codes. "To date, [the hijab] has not been a huge issue in schools," he said at the weekend, noting the headscarf was already worn by pupils in several schools.
He added he had no problem with the hijab. His department is conducting a review of the issue.
Source: Irish Times http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/0606/1212696229896.html
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