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Headscarf ban at birmingham met college

blahblah | 12.09.2013 19:06 | Birmingham

I was wondering what people's reactions were to the recent ban on headscarfs at birmingham metropolitan college? The situation appears to be this:

The college has a ban on hoodies, caps and hats, and has now added headscarfs to that list. The reason given is that all such items make it impossible to identify pupils in critical situations. As a school teacher myself I can attest that being able to identify pupils quickly is vital towards their safety in school. However many of the girls affected have complained that they feel discriminated against and that the ban violates their freedoms.

Personally, I opposed the headscarf ban in France, and would do in UK as well, on the basis of personal choice. Forcing women to cover up is abominable but forcing them not to, even those who make a free choice to wear their veil, is a clear breach of freedoms. I believe that muslim women are indoctrinated to dress in a certain way, but I don't feel that there is any society in the world that does not indoctrinate women to dress in a certain manner, and at some point we have to trust people's right to make their own decisions. The indoctrination should be tackled at root source, rather than telling women they must be a certain way and them prosecuting them for doing so. Also anyone forcing a woman to dress in a certain way should also be confronted - that much is clear.

However, I find myself unable to oppose this ban, as it seems to me that to ban non-religious clothing for practical reasons but to allow religious clothing that inhibits that practicality is to prioritise religious viewpoints and practices over non-religious viewpoints and practices - something I am deeply opposed to. I think that, realistically, caps and hoodies are associated with the prejudicial 'chav' stereotype, and therefore fair game for those who feel that discrimination can only be inflicted on bases such as race, sexuality, gender etc - and refuse to accept that class based discrimination (or even the class system itself) exists. Whereas religious freedoms must be protected at all costs - for example having a clearly defined uniform with items that reduce identifiability banned, with the exception of an item that eradicates identification more so than any other item of clothing, purely because that item has religious significance. It seems this story brings class and religious freedoms into conflict, and I cannot prioritise one or the other.

I am deeply confused by this issue but my immediate reaction is that either all must be allowed, or none. Either stance would be acceptable to me.

I am interested in what other people think about this?

---- for the record, I am a non-religious british asian anarchist with muslim family background, I am also a secondary school teacher ----