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Labour calls for school ban on hijab

category national | rights, freedoms and repression | other press author Wednesday June 04, 2008 19:24author by Darren C Report this post to the editors

Like their counterparts in France, Ruairi Quinn and the Irish Labour Party have become disturbingly fixated on dark skinned schoolgirls wearing hijabs. Derangement, paranoia and liberal racism are now centrist political positions. Quinn's Islamophobic and racist tirade against those immigrants who don't "conform to Irish norms" (we could have fun trying to define that one) is covered in today's Irish Independent:

Muslim anger at Opposition calls for school ban on hijab

By Patricia McDonagh
Monday June 02 2008
Full Story

Related Link: http://www.independent.ie/national-news/muslim-anger-at-opposition-calls-for-school-ban-on-hijab-1394321.html
author by Mike - Judean Popular Peoples Frontpublication date Mon Jun 02, 2008 18:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

WTF

"If people want to come into a western society that is Christian and secular, "

For crysakes how can a country be "Christian and secular" ? Its either one or the other (or nether of the above) but it clearly cannot be both.

author by Gearoid O Loingsighpublication date Mon Jun 02, 2008 18:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I don´t like the hijab it is a religious symbol and a sign of both religious alienation and the inferior role assigned to women, but if you want to wear it, well that is up to you. You can wear a tartan kilt for all I care. But maybe now is the time to ban that reactionary crap of school uniforms full stop.

author by Mike - Judean Popular Peoples Frontpublication date Mon Jun 02, 2008 18:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Now youre talking

These schools do enough damage making kids think alike without forcing them to look alike as well

author by pat cpublication date Mon Jun 02, 2008 19:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

people should have the freedom to wear what they want. but equally we should recognise that in many islamic societies women do not have a choice about wearing the hijab.

one things for sure, there should not be a state ban on the wearing of the hijab in schools. but i reckon gearóid is correct, uniforms should be gotten rid of.

author by pat cpublication date Mon Jun 02, 2008 19:56author address author phone Report this post to the editors

seeing as ruari likes our "christian" society he might be interested in the activities of these US troops.

U.S. Soldiers Launch Campaign To Convert Iraqis To Christianity
By Jason Leopold

http://www.countercurrents.org/leopold300508.htm

Some U.S. military personnel appears to have launched an initiative to covert thousands of Iraqi citizens to Christianity by distributing Bibles and other fundamentalist Christian literature translated into Arabic to Iraqi Muslims

author by Bazooka Joepublication date Mon Jun 02, 2008 20:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There are a great many Irish Muslims who are not 'dark skinned'. The hijab is a religious symbol not particular to 'foreigners' with 'dark skin'.

The fact that most islamobhobic people make these errors shows the true intent in this attempted ban. It is an anti-Islamic crusade and nothing less.

We have seen Labour in England wage war on Iraq and now we have their fellows here engaged in an outright anti-Islamic crusade against schoolchildren while other leftist toadies fan the flames of a propaganda war against Iran. It appears the New Left is very much in step with the neo con right and the Zionist Left. Right, left, right, left, marching on to a totalitarian puke-topia.

author by Darren Cpublication date Mon Jun 02, 2008 21:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"There are a great many Irish Muslims who are not 'dark skinned'. The hijab is a religious symbol not particular to 'foreigners' with 'dark skin'.

The fact that most islamobhobic people make these errors shows the true intent in this attempted ban. It is an anti-Islamic crusade and nothing less"

I was attempting to convey the point that the political establishment and media make lazy caricatures of Muslims as dark skinned in order to display them in a kind of colonial diorama. But this was obviously lost on you. The reality is that Islamophobia is part of a more general racism. Those who turn Islamophobia into violence and abuse do not distinguish between Arabs and Asians who are Muslim and those who are not.

author by wandering apostlepublication date Mon Jun 02, 2008 23:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Labour is demanding conformity in Irish schools. Anarchists should be wary of political statements about conformity, whether it be in dress or in behaviour. Secondly Mr. Quinn seems to be defending Ireland's christian culture 'against' foreign muslim influx: ""If people want to come into a western society that is Christian and secular, they need to conform to the rules and regulations of that country," Seems a bit strange for the Labour people to be suddenly coming to the defence of christian values. Where was Labour during all those sensitive referenda?

author by excathpublication date Tue Jun 03, 2008 01:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Let us not forget that one-time Tanaiste Brendan Corish (Coalition 1973-77) was a member of the Knights of Columbanus. So it should be no surprise to anyone to hear Labour spokespeople waffling on about Christianity.

author by atheistpublication date Tue Jun 03, 2008 03:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The koran advocates modesty but does not define what form it should take. The hijab is a manifestation of a culture that oppresses women. women can remain true to their religion, i.e, dress modestly without being forced to wear this kind of oppressive garment.

Furthermore, when I enter another country, I accept that I must respect the cultural norms of that country. What's so terrible about that. Most of the problems of multiculturalism stem from there not being proper integration of immigrants into society, resulting in ghettoisation as in france and other places.

If anything such actions are for the protection of women who come from oppressive cultures. I salute mr quinn for having the balls to stand up against this PC nonsense, and setting standards that protect immigrant women. Medical doctors suspect that cases of FGM have occurred within the state and we should draw a firm line on what we will stand for and what practices we will not stand for from people who choose to become members of our community.

On the issue of school uniforms, I believe part of the idea of these was so that rich kids could not make poorer kids feel bad because of the difference in the quality and cost of the clothes they wore to school. Personally I think it was a good idea in many ways. Unfortunately, greedy garment makers put up prices and somewhat defeated the purpose of the exercise. If the state had intervened to keep down the prices of school uniforms then it would still be a good idea IMHO

author by Gearoid O Loingsighpublication date Tue Jun 03, 2008 04:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sorry Athiest
But uniforms in schools are not about rich kids not making poorer kids feel ok, they are about, uniformity, that is why they are called that. It is about regimentation, lack of individuality etc. They have always about that and have always been an extra cost for the poor as they are clothes that generally cannot be worn elsewhere.

The hijab in societies where it is obligatory fulfills the same function, stripping women of their individuality, though many find ways around that with colourful variations on the theme.

author by passed the leavingpublication date Tue Jun 03, 2008 05:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

School uniforms represent uniformity. In some places they were an attempt to make all pupils feel welcome regardless of background i.e. traveller kids in country towns tend to be collected by a social worker and taken to a bathing place in a health centre where they get scrubbed and groomed, put on their uniforms and are then bussed around to the local schools. I met a woman who has that pleasant task. During the 1980s and 90s many national school parents around Ireland debated making school uniforms compulsory and voted for compulsion, thus ending the traditional ordinary clothing convention.

On this Wexford community school request for a Department of Education directive about the hijab I feel it may set a dangerous precedent by asking the government to lay down rules for school atmosphere/ethos centrally. The minimalist stance of the constitution allows for each school board to do its thing. The constitution specifically allows parents to keep kids out of the schooling system and opt for home schooling - something not allowed in many democracies.

One compromise rule a school board could have is allowing pupils to go to and from school dressed as they please, but once inside the classroom area to dress like everybody else. I know in muslim girls schools abroad they allow girls to play hockey and other sports wearing dark stockings/winter leggings beneath their sports skirts. That way the muslims get to participate in afternoon activities while observing a modesty code required by their parents.

author by Jimpublication date Tue Jun 03, 2008 09:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Most Catholic schools are named after saints, most classrooms have crucifixes on the wall or a statue of the Blessed Virgin, a holy water fount and other religious regalia. Most classes begin with an Our Father or some other prayer. Many older teachers wear pioneer pins. It is common for schoolgirls to wear Miraclous medals or crosses. There are masses, prayer services, ashes on the forehead, visits by priests and bishops, pilgrimages to Lourdes, religious classes and much more.
If schoolchildren do not want participate in religious activities in schools, nobody forces them to.
Parents who do not want their children to have Holy Communion, Confirmation or participate in masses or penitential services are catered for.
If a Muslim girl arrives in school wearing a hijab it shouldn't really be a problem either.

Religion becomes a problem when it forced upon individuals against their will.
There is no evidence of that happening in any Irish schools.
There is no evidence that the Catholic ethos is being imposed on the Irish people.
There is no evidence that Muslims are forcing Irish students to wear hijabs or attend Islamic religious ceremonies.

There is no problem.

author by Jimpublication date Tue Jun 03, 2008 17:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We must not go down the road of other European societies.

In France, Germany, Scandinavia, Holland etc. there are substantial Muslim neighbourhoods that have essentially become pockets of Sharia law populated by people who speak Arabic, where the police do not tread, where secular civil law does not reach and by agreement Sharia courts operate unofficially deciding serious matters such as divorces, domestic violence, female education and other women's right issues without reference to common practice in the societies around them.
These ghettos are semi-autonomous and full of radicalised Islamic fundementalists who not only seek to live outside of the law of the country they live but seek to impose their intolerant values and religion upon "infidel" society.

If virulent Muslim extremism emerges in among a minority while little integration occurs between the larger Muslim community and an Irish society still getting used to previously alien cultures were violent attacks such as those in Lisbon or London occur in Dublin (e.g. a bomb on the Luas or in the middle of crowded Grafton Street) bearing in mind the outpouring of civil disorder that occured during the "Love Ulster" parade, we could be witness to full-scale violence by working class Dubliners against Muslims.

There are two economic and social underclasses already in existence in Ireland society.
Uneducated immigrants from the Middle East and Africa who are working in low paid jobs and who form a support structure for one another in an alien society.
Uneducated unemployed uneducated and unskilled inner city Dubliners who traditionally depended on the state and low skilled labour who must now compete for housing, jobs and social welfare funds with newcomers.

Signs such as "No 2 Foreign Rule" prominently displayed in Dublin city centre appeals to knee jerk xenophobia.
Islamists are not stupid. They want publicity and they want victimhood. All the need to do is light the fuse.

author by Poormouthpublication date Wed Jun 04, 2008 19:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If you decide at some point to target ireland because of shannon or whatever, PLEASE don't bomb our already pathetic infrastructure, such as our overcrowded trains, hospital A&E units or the luas etc, as once they are gone, our penny pinching shortsighted crooked overpaid incompetent government will not replace them ever.

Perhaps you might consider shell in mayo instead? Its no skin off our nose if you decide to blow them up since we'll get nothing from them ever and we will pay the same market price for our gas, regardless. (note the 17% rise due to world gas prices asked for by bord gais, yet no proper discussion on re-negotiation of the corrib contract on the corporate media)

author by Mike - Judean Popular Peoples Frontpublication date Wed Jun 04, 2008 19:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The first paragraph of your post completly contradicts the rest of it.

A lot like Labour's "Secular Christian Country" !

author by Chekovpublication date Wed Jun 04, 2008 19:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Religion becomes a problem when it forced upon individuals against their will.
There is no evidence of that happening in any Irish schools.
There is no evidence that the Catholic ethos is being imposed on the Irish people."


If you substitute 'lots of evidence' for 'no evidence' you get a true statement. The vast majority of Irish schools are run by the catholic church who impose a catholic ethos. Practical reality is such that most of the population have very little choice in where they send their children to school. Most people don't have the choice of sending their children to a non-catholic school. Ergo a catholic ethos is being imposed on lots of Irish people.

Most catholic schools run classes in religious education. These classes invariably contain individuals who would not choose to be there and are having religious beliefs forced upon them against their will.

So, whether you agree with the ban on hijabs or not, you will have to agree that Ruari Quinn is a world-class hypocrite. Having a go at the religious symbols of a tiny minority within the education system while ignoring the fact that another religion exercises a great deal of control over the entire educational system is breath-takingly hypocritical.

author by Jimpublication date Wed Jun 04, 2008 19:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I was once suspended from school for shaving my head to a 2 blade. If I turned up in class with a towel on my head I would be in serious trouble.

author by Chekovpublication date Wed Jun 04, 2008 20:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

On the cedar lounge revolution blog:

Related Link: http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/quinn-hammer-of-islam/
author by atheistpublication date Wed Jun 04, 2008 21:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

and would agree somewhat with smiffy in your link when he said

"Now, if one advocated a real separation of Church and State, and the establishment of a genuinely secular education system, which would necessitate the absolute removal of any and all religious influence from every school in receipt of exchequer funding (my own view, incidentally) then, while it wouldn’t require a ban on the wearing of the hijab by students (any more than a secular state would prohibit the wearing of crosses by passengers on public transport), Quinn’s position might seen principled enough."

However, I still believe that the move to abolish religious symbolism in publically funded schools (and I certainly include catholicism in this!!) is as much for the protection of oppressed minorities as anything. Women are often oppressed by their own religious communities and the law of the land is what stands between their oppressors and the oppressed.

the film "Yasmin" deals rather well with the various pressures to conform on a muslim woman from a muslim ghetto in a western society. worth a watch. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0420333/

Best solution: abolish ALL religions altogether. They are all daft anyway!!

author by Nodinpublication date Fri Jun 06, 2008 11:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Furthermore, when I enter another country, I accept that I must respect the cultural norms of that country. What's so terrible about that. Most of the problems of multiculturalism stem from there not being proper integration of immigrants into society, resulting in ghettoisation as in france and other places"

You'll find that they do not encourage or practice multiculturalism in France, and in fact never have. Neither left or right support the idea.

author by Muslim girlpublication date Fri Jun 06, 2008 13:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Very few people truly appreciate how much Islam champions the rights of women, and how little the West has done to raise the status of women. most people see Western society as the ideal, as the upholder of woman's rights. But how much have the women really advanced in Western societies? Now, more than ever , Western societies are afflicted with high divorce rates, which results in a huge number of single mothers, who are forced to both work and raise their children all by themselves. The Muslim woman wearing a hijab is the quintessence of a dignified woman: one looks at her and sees a respectable person. She can be respected for her mind and for the choices she has made in life. Meanwhile-and this is a fact that no one can deny- men see the naked( or half naked) Western woman as a sex object and no more. is that freedom?

It as an amazing claim to hear that hijab is a cultural thing and not religious OR that muslim women are oppressed. I am a Muslim woman and I am not oppressed! I wear the hijab and by the way i was not forced to put it on, in fact, I am the only one in my house to wear it. I put in on because I wholeheartedly believe in God, and in the Quran God told us to dress modestly. ie wear hijab. If somebody still thinks that we are oppressed then just talk to any Muslim women, instead of watching the media which hardly tells the truth these days, and she will tell you that it is not true.

And finally if the hijab is going to be banned from school many muslin girls will be deprived of education. For us the environment where we can not practice our religious right is intolerable, and thus many girls will refuse to go to school, although we do want to get education, but not at the cost of our freedom. This is a free country and everyone should have a right to wear what they wish.

kind regards,
Muslim girl

author by Sevinch Karaca - Workers Solidarity Movement (Personal Capacity)publication date Fri Jun 06, 2008 18:38author email sevinckaraca at yahoo dot co dot ukauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

How wonderful that Labor has a significant opinion on something which won them friends from Fina Gael, and oh, spin, spin, spin. It has been a while we did not have a juicy controversy.

You are the main opposition party suffering decline, you have not come up with a substantial position as an opposition party on any of the major issues of the “labor” class in a long while, you are not trusted, you need to recover, you need a come back gig, regain and reclaim your “radicalism” but you cant risk too much public opposition; there is always Muslim women's hijab, such a small group whose spineless self declared representatives are good for nothing but doing politics over women and women's cover, because they have little else to say about real issues of Muslims in this country such as high levels of female unemployment (Allah only knows why?), general unemployment, discrimination, isolation, domestic violence, poverty, homophobia, racism, sexism, misogyny and so on. Taking only the defensive positions, because the only offensive position they are able to take is against Muslim women and not against the status quo.

In response to a few points the Muslim Girl made; Just to save Muslims in Ireland from jumping to any preclusion, I am from Turkey and was raised as a Muslim woman. I now have no religion and believe that Islam is misogynist and believe that it discriminates against women in all its institutions and practice. This is not specific to Islam, it does this because it is a religion, and religion is one of capitalism's delivering arms of oppression against women. I will however respect any body's freedom of religious expression as long as I will have the same freedom without any threat, demand or coverted (taqwa) action, if you know what I mean as a non believer in religions.

Too busy trying to fight for them, I have not experienced or enjoyed any rights that were championed by Islam you claim, I would like to hear areas of life where Islam champions women's rigths today. Although I agree with you that there is little in the lives of Western Women that suggest an ideal model to base any class based feminist struggle, this failure should be referred to its failure in embracing the lives of working class women and class issues, not to the lack of Islam in these societies.

High divorce rate is a socio-economic issue as it is as high as in Europe and South America in Muslim countries like Turkey, Ozbekistan, Turkmenistan and Bosnia, high divorce rate is a bitter sweet reflection of women's emancipation, a pathological by product of an institution established to make women permanent property of men in the first place and to secure her labor free of charge, there is divorce because we now can!

Your emphaty with single and divorced mothers who have to both work and raise their children on their own does not extent to Muslim women who have been doing it without any structure to support them in our respective countries. Single mothers in Muslim societies, if they survive the violent manifestations of the stigma attached to it, also have to deal with this stigma even if they are single because they have been widowed or deserted, while trying to survive in societies where legally required accessory for a woman to step outside her door, to even see a doctor, is a man. I want to understand what kind of freedom is there in this, even for men.

“The Muslim woman wearing a hijab is the quintessence of a dignified woman: one looks at her and sees a respectable person. “. As a dignified uncovered women from a Muslim society I reject your notion and find it offensive, I look at women in hijab in Turkey, here and Iran, sometimes not always, I see an oppressed, fearful dignified woman, not a an emancipated dignified woman. And I sometimes see representation of a hypocritical politics serving male culture in that scarf, oh the honor of our women! When will we stop looking for our dignity behind the hijab, between our legs, over parts of our body?.

We have urgent issues as Muslim women, there are 3 million widows and a further 9 million orphans of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Gulf wars, majority of Muslim workers-men and women- live under abject poverty in war thorn countries and regions, our representatives spent our countries' budget on arms produced by the “evil enemy” themselves and we sit around the table, try to have a view of each other through the white elephant sitting in the middle of the table, while ignoring it. But we wont touch that, it does not give that pious air of devotion and honor to a woman, if it does we are blind to it unless it humms the hymns. The safe option of upper class educated Muslim women to practice in live politics without risking anger of a system who is otherwise prepared to silence any woman who go beyond religion to raise real issues and plight of Muslim women as we see in Iran.

You also rightly state that Muslim men view uncovered Western Women as sex objects. I will have to argue that your cover does not save you from being viewed as sex objects, evidences of it are plenty and obvious in our societies, what would a man be doing with his 11 years old wife if he does not see her a sex object? If there is a suggestion there that Western women suffer from this objectification more by Muslim men, it is not something to be proud about, it is to be tackled because it is racist as well as sexist, I did not hear the tone of condemnation in this statement from you, even when I read it loud.

You state that if hijab is banned many girls will be deprived of education, do you not see the irony in that, state punishes girls, then the family bans the girls from school, so the girl gets to be punished twice, hmmm, something sadly missing in this equation you make.

I will join your fight for freedom to wear whatever one likes to wear to school as long as this struggle respect others' choices in the same extend and respect the fellow non-Muslim women's dignity in any society we live in, in the West or in our countries.

Sevinch Karaca

author by Spinning Quicklypublication date Fri Jun 06, 2008 20:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's disturbing to hear Ruari Quinn come out with such words about the hijab - adopting a "my way or the highway" attitude to it. Assuming that every Muslim who wears it oppressed is no different than an Orangeman assuming that every Catholic woman with a Rosary is in thrall to the Vatican.

Sadly, the culture wars over Islam have started here.

author by Stuartpublication date Fri Jun 06, 2008 21:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A couple of years ago I formulated a school policy on observing respect for others in the display of religious piercings - i.e. requiring that they not be ostentatious, that religious genital piercings were not acceptable and that all religious piercings be either removed or covered with a protective plaster for PE and visiting dignitaries. That was April 1st, but it is now (no kidding) widely believed to be school policy.

Likewise any other display, religious or personal, should not be ostentatious, offensive to others or contrary to an established uniform policy or safety policy. My experience is that girls today regularly wear scarves and other headgear to both school and class. Until relatively recently (ahem, certainly when I was at school) many - Christian - girls' schools required that hair be covered as part of their uniform, and that all girls and women cover their hair in church, according to St Paul's teachings (1 Corinthians 11:4-5).

If the school is enforcing an existing policy barring headgear then it can justifiably bar hijab and take whatever action comes its way. If it has no policy, or is not enforcing a policy, or is barring a specifically Muslim headscarf then it is in the wrong. The Equality Authority http://www.equality.ie/ would possibly support the girl in an action under The Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004 prohibiting "discrimination on the religion ground: Different religious belief, background, outlook or none."

Advice to schools (teaching granny to suck eggs): Formulate a sensible uniform policy and enforce it before you become national news.

author by passed the leavingpublication date Fri Jun 06, 2008 23:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Sevinch Karacha in an interesting contribution stresses the freedom to wear whatever "one likes to wear to school" while not being offensive to other students and Stuart stresses freedom to wear personal religious symbols that are not 'ostentatious'. I'd go along with that. Parents can encourage standards of dress in public for their children and schools can insist on standard school dress code such as no jewellery or punk hairstyles.

The french laicite laws now apparently make it a technical offence for jewish students to attend lycees wearing skullcaps on Saturday (if it happens to be an annual sports day for example) and there is now doubt about the permissibility of christian girls wearing crucifix necklaces in class. I think this is transgressing a tripwire in the area of personal freedom. 'Cityoens' owe allegiance to the french state but they have personal beliefs and lifestyles that the impersonal state should be neutral on rather than suppressive.

I'd repeat my observation that wearing clothes to and from school is largely a matter for approval of parents, but while on the school precincts and especially in classroom areas the school management, in consultation with PTA, has the prerogative on what dress code pupils should observe. I'd prefer the Department of Education to keep out of the issue as the autonomy of schools, implied in the constitution, could be undermined by a policy of central directives. I therefore have misgivings about Ruairi Quinn's recent public call for Departmental guidelines. In recent decades PTAs have been encouraged by the Department and it would be a pity if Department directives on school attire were to reverse this trend of local consultation unintentionally.

Muslim girls can be enabled to participate actively in school sports if allowed to wear winter tights and suchlike along with sports shorts or skirts, as is the practice in girls schools in many muslim countries and elsewhere.

author by Muslim girlpublication date Sat Jun 07, 2008 00:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dear Sevinch

In Quran Allah says that there is no compulsion in religion. Everyone can choose there own way, whether we choose right or wrong we will be held accountable for our own decisions. I have no problem with women not wearing a hijab, it is up to an individual to decide so.
Unfortunately it is very difficult to find in today's world a true Islamic country that would adhere to the true Islamic teaching. I agree that in many of these muslim countries women are oppressed and deprived of there rights given them by Allah. I myself come from such a place, people call themselves Muslims but that's about it. The majority of these people dont follow the Islamic teaching , they follow the traditions of their "forefathers" , but they claim these traditions to be Islamic. Thus the oppressin does not come from Islam but from these traditions.
You should not judge Islam by the actions of these people. Instead look at the way that the most noble of Muslims, Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions, used to treat people. You wont find them acting unjustly or oppressively against anyone.

Regarding the girls being deprived of education< i did not mean that their parents will forbid them to go to school, but instead these girls themselves will refuse to go to school. I finished school not so long ago and I am now a 1st year student in university. If it comes to a point that hijab will be banned from school, I dont thing it will take a long time for it to be banned from the universities as well. And if that happens All my hard work that i have done to get to university will be taken away from me. I will not be able to take off my hijab , it will be as if somebody has taken out my heart. I love to wear it, not because it shield me from the preying eyes of men, or because it gives me respect, but because I love Allah and His word is dear to my heart. He told the believing women to cover themselves and I cover myself up, not caring what other people will think of me.

author by passed the leavingpublication date Sat Jun 07, 2008 05:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Muslim girl, congratulations on having successfully completed your first year at college, and I trust that you will get your qualification eventually. A few muslim countries discourage girls from even completing primary school, the taliban being a recent extreme case. Where do the militant men in government get their belief that girls shouldn't receive equal education opportunities from? Not from the holy Kuran surely? Do they get ideas about women's place in civil and political society from their own male authoritarian heads instead, and then falsely present them as coming from the Kuran?

You begin by saying that "In Quran Allah says that there is no compulsion in religion. Everyone can choose their own way, whether we choose right or wrong we will be held accountable for our own decisions." As an Irish christian I would agree with your statement that religion is a matter for individual belief and conscience, but I am painfully aware that historically some muslim regimes in southern Europe and in the Middle East have not given your individualist and liberal interpretation to their dictates about citizens having to conform to dress codes, prayer conventions and social-educational policies laid down by authoritarian men who think they know what is best for women and other citizens. In other words they have not believed that Allah says there is no compulsion in religion and that individual conscience is paramount concerning moral and social behaviour. Are you aware that pressures have mounted in Iran in recent years for women students at university to cover their heads in a certain way? Even though they don't want to? Who in Iran and elsewhere is interpreting the Kuran for whom? Do they decide the correct interpretation at the point of a gun or threats of violence against nonconforming female students? I would add in passing that christian authoritarian regimes in Europe have in past times violated the principle of individual belief and conscience. An example was the regime in Spain under Generalissimo Franco, which refused to recognise marriages blessed only in protestant churches, and which adopted a dubious attitude to the status of jews in spanish civil society.

The issue of female dress in Irish schools can be decided at local level by school management and boards in consultation with Parent Teacher Associations. This is known as the principle of subsidiarity and is recognised by the Catholic Church and some supporters of the European Union. Subsidiarity applies to many other areas of life, not only education.

author by paul o toolepublication date Sun Jun 08, 2008 11:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Jack Straw last year refused to see women in his constituency office who wore the moslem vail hijab.
The furrore afterwards was vicious. RTE late late show with Pat Kenny followed suit and he asked the dispicable question in line with his political masters wishes to help further the non existend controversy.... .'Should we, allow...., Moslems..... to wear the hijab, ....OR, (listen to this for disgraceful prime time tv)...should WE...... send them back home.

I havent watched the late late muck since. There is no controversy here except the fact that Moslems must constantly be seen to be the centre of all our (westerners) problems.....terrorism, integration, suicide bombers etc.
By constantly harrassing this particular sect of people we are in effect deamonising them. It is one sure way to get moslems living in the 'west' to conform to 'western values', and remain quiet while we rob them of their oil . And also to make it easier to invade their countries and kill their children because we have been conditioned to hold a certain contempt for them just like Jack Straw and Pat Kenny, joe Duffy, Gerrry Ryan etc propagate the same rhetoric over and over.....even though there is nothing to talk about. Hitler done the same gentle aggressive demonising of the Jewish People .
RTE is a propaganda tool of the Neo-Con US and UK establishment. No one ever askedJack Straw why he never refused Moslems in his office for the 16 years his constituency off ice has been open prior to this. No one asked Pat Kenny why he felt at liberty to ask such a loaded question at such a sensitive time, and who is the 'we' he refers to.
Now Ruary Quinn is paying his entrance fee into the Neo-Con slightly diluted facist camp.
Another disgraceful display of swimming to the bottom politics. It sure is crowded down there.

author by Stuartpublication date Sun Jun 08, 2008 12:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yes, the issue of female dress in Irish schools CAN be decided by the school management, boards and PTA. The simple fact is that most schools have either not produced a policy or do not enforce it. Some schools have not amended policies from the 1930s requiring that girls wear ankle-length dresses, knee-socks, aprons and a bonnet. Others have recently updated policies to allow a choice of skirt / dress / trousers without reference to gender.

When I was teaching I had many students wearing hijab (but never niqab or burqah) and never had a problem with it., I did frequently ask both boys and girls to raise overgrown fringes from their eyes, take off sunglasses, lift baseball caps and not to cover their mouths (or chew gum) while speaking. I think the eyes and mouth are important to effective communication.

We live in a society where, through forgotten Christian teaching, men cover their heads in public and bare them in prayer or private dwelllings, where women in some occupations (such as nuns, nurses and aircraft cabin crew) must cover their hair while their male counterparts do not, where girls are veiled for first holy communion and boys are bare-headed. We can't discriminate against any other group doing something similar, but not identical, to ourselves.

We have equality legislation that schools should take fully into account in formulating updated policies, and they should do it before any specific case arises. This isn't simply a Muslim issue because many American and African Christians, Jewish boys and Afrocaribbeans have cultural dress codes that include some form of head covering.

author by passed the leavingpublication date Sun Jun 08, 2008 14:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is sad if individual school managements fail to protect their powers of autonomy by failing to review their internal regulations on dress codes and other matters. It shows a weakness in civic discussion and decision making. It shows a hesitation in conducting a partnership with local communities that schools are supposed to serve. The board of management in that Wexford school wants to hand over to the Department of Education its own prerogative for school policy making, and Ruairi Quinn's public call on government to intervene nationally adds to a possible encroachment on school autonomy. The french model of central control over school policy repels me.

Some schools make strenuous efforts to have active relations with PTAs, while many PTA meetings are poorly attended despite copious advance notice. Teachers have told me that the parents of problem students whom they urgently wish to meet don't turn up for meetings while the parents of thriving students do turn up. It amounts to a weak Irish civic culture. We should be aiming at a participatory democracy and it has got to start locally.

I doubt whether equality legislation is the key guide to resolving dress codes in schools. IMHO it has got more to do with active discussions between parents and school management, the creation of harmony among school pupils and the maintenance of school discipline. This latter has weakened in many places because of weakened parental standards in the home.

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