LONDON – A leading British Muslim group has voiced concerns over school inspecting authority, Ofsted, plans to question young Muslim girls on hijab, saying the proposal challenges the British values of religious freedom.
“It is deeply worrying that Ofsted has announced it will be specifically targeting and quizzing young Muslim girls who choose to wear the headscarf,” the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) secretary general Harun Khan said in a statement shared by the group on Twitter.
“It sends a clear message to all British women who adopt this that they are second-class citizens, that while they are free to wear the headscarf, the establishment would prefer that they do not. The many British Muslims who choose to wear the headscarf have done extremely well in education and are breaking glass ceilings,” he added.
The MCB statement followed the announcement by Ofsted chief inspector of schools, Amanda Spielman, that the body will be asking Muslim girls in primary school why they wear hijab
The controversial move is the first official stance with the regard to the rise of classroom hijab in state schools in England.
Spielman said she wants to make sure schools are not breaching equality laws by requiring only girls to wear religious garments.
“In seeking to address these concerns, inspectors will talk to girls who wear such garments to ascertain why they do so in the school,” said Spielman.
The move was criticized by the MCB as disappointing.
“It is disappointing that this is becoming policy without even engaging with a diverse set of mainstream Muslim voices on the topic,” Khan said.
“Such an approach risks being both counter-productive and undermining the very British values it claims to promote. One can only hope that this wrong-headed approach will be swiftly reversed, and the reasonable and sincere choices of young children and their parents- even if they are Muslim- will not be dismissed so easily.”
A survey by The Sunday Times found 18 percent of 800 primary schools, including Church of England primaries, include the hijab in their uniform policy.
Across England’s 17,000 primary schools the figure is likely to run into thousands.
The Muslim Council of Britain responds to Ofsted’s proposal to target young Muslim girls who choose to wear a headscarf, as reported in The Sunday Times pic.twitter.com/kWlGhgiRA8
— MCB (@MuslimCouncil) November 19, 2017