Principal instructed to allow Muslim pupil to wear hijab

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Cape Town - A Cape Town school principal has been instructed by the Western Cape education department to allow a Muslim pupil to wear her hijab after he initially wrote a letter to her mother saying, despite his research into Islam, he could not find anything stipulating that a hijab must be worn.

"As a hijab is not part of De Grendel School's school outfit, according to the school conduct and school dress code policy, we cannot permit [the student] to wear such attire (a hijab) to school," De Grendel School of Skills principal, Renier Peterson, wrote in a letter at the end of May to a student's mother after her daughter was told to remove her hijab.

The WCED has since said the pupil would immediately be allowed to wear her hijab.

In the letter to the mother, Peterson explained that while he is "not familiar with all the different believes [sic] and cultures within the school," he decided to take it upon himself to find out more information from the Islamic Association of Raleigh about the Islamic month of fasting, Ramadaan and the "people of the Muslim religion".

Constitutional values on religious practice

He detailed what he had since learned about Ramadaan, including things that nullify the fast and things that are permissible.

"Unfortunately, I could not find any rule or recommendation that can proof [sic] the fact that wearing a hijab is compulsory during the month of Ramadaan," he wrote.

Peterson goes on to say that while he wanted to wish the parent well over Ramadaan, the hijab was not part of the school attire and allowing her to wear it would mean allowing an influx of other religious requests in terms of dress code, among other things.

When News24 contacted the school on Tuesday morning, the receptionist said that the principal did not wish to comment.

The pupil's mother also declined to comment on the matter, saying it had since been resolved.

Education department spokesperson Millicent Merton said that the department encouraged schools to follow the Constitution on issues pertaining to the school uniform, which says that headscarves and yarmulkes should not be prohibited as they form part of one's religious practice.

"The principal is newly appointed and will receive the necessary guidance on the issue. The learner will immediately be allowed to wear a headscarf," said Merton.

"According to the guidelines, schools should take religious and cultural diversity into account. We believe the simplest approach would be for the school to adjust dress codes to meet these requirements."

Letter sent from the principal. (Supplied)

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