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Headscarf issue hits SA school

AFP, France
Jan. 23, 2004 • Monday January 26, 2004

Johannesburg – A Johannesburg school has briefly barred a Muslim pupil from wearing a headscarf – a non-issue in other schools – but its governing body is set to review the matter, press reports said on Friday.

Thirteen-year-old Lamiah Khan was told by the principal of her new school in Johannesburg to remove the scarf as it was not part of the uniform, The Star reported.

Khan told the paper she was summoned by the principal and told that “I chose to come to this school and that I should follow the school’s rules.”

However, the school authorities later decided she could wear the scarf until the governing body took a decision on the matter next week.

Khan’s father, Mohammed Khan, a teacher, has accused the school’s authorities of discrimination.

Education Minister Kader Asmal said recently South Africa should not follow the lead of France, where President Jacques Chirac has come out in favour of banning overt religious symbols like headscarves from state schools and parliament is expected next month to pass a law to that effect, the Star said.

The principal at Lamiah Khan’s school declined comment.

But Ignatius Jacobs, the education minister of Gauteng province, of which Johannesburg is capital, said: “At the end of last year we passed a new national policy on religion in education which basically deals … with issues of how, within a framework, a school governing body sets policy on uniforms, on headscarves, on Rastafarian gear, etc, etc.

“Let’s say hopefully this is an isolated incident and we will be able to correct it as soon as possible.”

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