SHAFAQNA – A decision by a Kyrgyz region to ban hijab in schools has sparked concerns among Muslims, amid reports that the ban may be applied across the country this coming fall.
“This question was raised a year ago, and the authorities ruled that hijabs should be allowed. Now the schools started discussing this topic again,” Aibek Ashirbayev, whose daughter attends a public school in Otuz Adir village in Kara-Suu region, told local News Agency 24.k on Monday, April 27.
“It worries me and many others. We live in a country where 80 percent of the citizens are Muslims, so why not let Muslim girls wear hijabs?”
Ashirbayev was voicing Muslims’ worries after a Kara-Suu school has officially banned wearing the Islamic headscarf in classes.
Imposing the ban, Aizhamal Kalenova, Head of the Education Department in Kara-Suu region, said: “As of the new academic year 2015/2016 all schoolchildren across Kyrgyzstan will be wearing the same uniform, and we should be preparing the children for this process already.”
Kalenova claims that the ban came in response to complaints by dozens of parents against donning hijab in schools.
“Because the influence of the religious population in our region is quite high, until now this problem hasn’t been raised, but we were asked to not allow girls attend school in hijabs anymore,” Kulanova says.
According to statement released by Kyrgystan’s Education and Science Ministry, the school uniform program is being implemented to prevent discrimination of underprivileged students by those from the rich families. Asserting that the specifications of the school uniforms have been well established, Education Department Head Aizhamal Kalenova stated, “We should be preparing the children for this process already.” Saikal Karayeva, coordinator of the Bilim (Knowledge) non-profit, told local News Agency 24.kg, that the question regarding hijabs shouldn’t be taken as a light matter and should be discussed at higher levels of government.
Muslims make up 75 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s 5-million population.
The right to religious freedom has recently come under attack in Kyrgyzstan, according to domestic and international rights activists.
In 2009, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed a law banning proselytism, private religious education and the import or dissemination of religious literature. The law also requires all religious communities to register with the state.
Voicing opposition against the hijab ban, Kyrgyz Muslim leaders warned that it “will be a discriminatory measure”.
“Nobody is against the uniform, but what does the hijab have to do with it?” asked Otuz Adir village imam, Abdumanap Omurzakov.
On the other hand, supporters of the ban believe that it will curb discrimination against underprivileged students and promote “equality”.
“We will not let the students wear not only hijabs, but also jewelry, expensive clothes, etc,” Osh public school math teacher Uulkan Zhanbolotova stated.
“This way, children from families with different incomes will not feel discriminated [against].”
Defending the right of Muslim schoolgirls to wear their head scarves, pro-hijab parents started collecting signatures to reverse the ban.
Moreover, concerned parents plan to pursue the matter in the nation’s parliament.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
Hijab dispute is not new in the impoverished mountainous country. As each new academic year begins an increasing number of Muslim schoolgirls face exclusion from state schools for wearing hijab.
School officials have been citing guidelines instructing them to interpret and enforce the school dress code more strictly.
Many Muslim students in Kyrgyzstan were banned from attending classes in 2011 and 2012 over their headscarf.
Many students were either forced to remove their headscarf or sent home if they refused to take it off.
In 2009, education officials declared that schoolgirls will no longer be allowed to wear hijab.
The decision was blasted by rights advocates as running against the very principles of religious freedom.
Source : onislam.net