FaithWorld

Belgian court to rule on headscarf ban in Flemish schools

September 11, 2009

belgian-scarf

(Photo: Muslim women with Belgian flag protest against headscarf bans, 4 Feb 2004/Yves Herman)

A Belgian court is due to rule next week on a ban on the Muslim headscarf at two schools in Dutch-speaking Flanders, an issue that has led to a death threat for one school principal and graffiti sprayed on walls. The schools in Antwerp and nearby Hoboken introduced the ban at the start of the school year last week, arguing that Muslim girls were being pressured to wear headscarves by their families and peers.

Angry pupils have staged protests outside the school and one girl filed a complaint with the Belgian Council of State to contest the ban. The court will rule on the matter next week and one of its chief advocates has already advised it to overturn the ban. The advocate’s advice is followed in 90 percent of cases.

“The advocate said that such a ban is not lawful, and that only the umbrella organisation of state schools can decide on whether or not to introduce such a measure,” a court spokesman said.

The protests with banners reading “No headscarf, no pupils” and “Everybody free except us” have been headline news in Belgium. One of the schools was vandalised and had slogans sprayed on its walls and its director has received a death threat.

Neighbouring France passed a law in 2004 banning pupils from wearing conspicuous signs of their religion at school after a decade of bitter debate about Muslim girls wearing headscarves in class. Such a measure would be difficult to introduce across the region of Flanders, where most of the schools are private Catholic institutions. Those that have introduced headscarf bans are “community schools.”

UPDATE: School officials announced later on Friday that about one fifth of all schools in Belgium’s Dutch-speaking Flanders region would ban pupils from wearing Muslim headscarves.  “This decision promotes the feeling of equality and prevents group formation or segregation on the basis of external symbols of life philosophy,” said a statement from the schools.

Here is a Reuters TV video on the story:

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

Comments
2 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Islam teaches us Peace and harmony not only among the Muslims but with all other religions. Islam teaches us Universalism, respect, tolerance and respect for the laws of the land as patriotic citizens. And Western Muslims deserves to be identified as Patriotic Western Citizens and not as extremists, fanatics or even terrorists. We all have to join hands for the stability of our country and peace, love and mutual respect among every single individual living in this heavenly planet.

 

The demand for Muslim schools comes from parents who want their children a safe environment with an Islamic ethos.Parents see Muslim schools where children can develop their Islamic Identity where they won’t feel stigmatised for being Muslims and they can feel confident about their faith.Muslim schools are working to try to create a bridge between communities.

There is a belief among ethnic minority parens that the British schooling does not adequatly address their cultural needs. Failing to meet this need could result in feeling resentment among a group who already feel excluded. Setting up Muslim school is a defensive response.

State schools with monolingual teachers are not capable to teach English to bilingual Muslim children. Bilingual teachers are needed to teach English to such children along with their mother tongue. According to a number of studies, a child will not learn a second language if his first language is ignored.

Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. Muslims
have the right to educate their children in an environment that suits their culture. This notion of “integration”, actually means “assimilation”, by which people generally really mean “be more like me”. That is not multiculturalism. In Sydney, Muslims were refused to build a Muslim school, because of a protest by the residents. Yet a year later, permission was
given for the building of a Catholic school and no protests from the residents. This clrearly shows the blatant hypocrisy, double standards and racism. Christians oppose Muslim schools in western countries yet build their own religious schools.

British schooling and the British society is the home of institutional racism. The result is that Muslim children are unable to develop self-confidence and self-esteem, therefore, majority of them leave schools with low grades. Racism is deeply rooted in British society. Every native child is born with a gene or virus of racism, therefore, no law could change the attitudes of racism towards those who are different. It is not only the common man, even member of the royal family is involved in racism. The father of a Pakistani officer cadet who was called a “***” by Prince Harry has profoundly condemned his actions. He had felt proud when he met the Queen and the Prince of Wales at his son’s passing out parade at Sandhurst in 2006 but now felt upset after learning about the Prince’s comments. Queen Victoria invited an Imam from India to teach her Urdu language. He was highly respected by the Queen but other members of the royal family had no respect for him. He was forced to go back to India. His portrait is still in one of the royal places.

There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools with bilingual Muslim teachers. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.
Iftikhar Ahmad
London School of Islamics Trust
http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/