Girls in Uzbekistan are finally allowed to wear hijab in schools after the government lifted the ban imposed on Muslim’s head covering to ensure devout Muslim families send their daughters to school.
Education minister Sherzod Shermatov said on Saturday the authorities “intend to allow national headscarves and skullcaps in white or light colors” in schools after “the appeals of many parents,” The Express Tribune reported.
The Central Asian country’s education ministry added that the move, which followed complains by many parents, was necessary to ensure every child got a secular education.
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The head covering prototype by Shermatov suggested girls of school age would not be able to cover their chin as is the case with the hijab.
The minister did not also specify what age category the measures would affect.
Islam is the dominant religion in Uzbekistan. However, the authoritarian government is staunchly secular and has retained tight control over the faith in the three decades of independence from the Soviet Union.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has relaxed some controls on state-sanctioned Islam since coming to power in the country in 2016 after the death of long-ruling autocrat Islam Karimov.
Earlier this year, Uzbekistan amended its law on freedom of conscience to allow women to wear the hijab in public places — though not in buildings housing state institutions such as schools.
Uzbekistan introduced religious clothing ban in 1998.
Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous nation, is at the heart of a geopolitical power struggle between the West and Russia.
The country, where Muslims make up 88 percent of the 28 million population, is one of the world’s biggest producers of cotton and has huge natural gas and mineral reserves.
Yet, economy is sluggish and unemployment is towering.
Rights groups have long accused Uzbekistan of suppressing religious freedoms as part of a campaign against Islamic extremism.