Research published in The Sunday Times this week revealed that eight state-funded British schools are forcing children to wear the Islamic hijab along with other Muslim female dress code requirements, which includes girls as young as four. The findings are based on open source investigations into published dress code directives of 176 Muslim schools across Britain, most of which are private.
However, the new discovery of public schools among them has sparked outrage across the UK, especially as three of the schools are elementary level schools (including kindergarten). According to The Sunday Times:
Girls as young as four are being “forced to wear the hijab” as part of approved school uniform in state-funded Islamic schools, campaigners have told ministers.
According to research by the National Secular Society, the hijab appears to be compulsory in eight state-funded Islamic schools in England, including three primary schools.
A further 51 private Islamic schools of the 176 surveyed by the society also require the headscarf to be worn by female pupils. Eighteen schools said wearing the head covering was optional.
Shockingly, one particular school called the Independent Olive Secondary requires that, “Hair should be covered by a black scarf; outside the School the face must be covered,” while another UK school is explicit in stipulating that, "It is very important that the uniform is loose fitting and modest and that the hijaab is fitted closely to the head. The College uniform is COMPULSORY" (sic). The Tayyibah Girls School in London warns: "The school is not willing to compromise on any issues regarding uniform."
Meanwhile, some schools go so far as to recommend the niqab. For example girls at Al-Ihsaan school in Leicester are told they must wear either a “jilbaab or niqab”. The jilbaab is a long and loose-fitting gown which covers the entire body expect for hands, face, and feet. But the niqab recommendation is much more significant in that it is practiced by only a small minority within the Muslim world - it covers the entire face except for the eyes, and is typically worn with black garments with cover head to toe.
In addition to the eight publicly funded schools which require head coverings of veils, thirteen others cite an optional hijab as part of their uniform policy. Islamic academies in Britain came under scrutiny early this month when a previous Times story first reported that "Thousands of state primary schools are allowing girls as young as five to wear the Muslim religious headscarf as part of approved school uniform, a Sunday Times survey has revealed."
The earlier investigation found that even Church of England associated schools were increasingly adopting various forms of Islamic dress as acceptable among students:
Last month a survey by The Sunday Times revealed that nearly a fifth (18%) of 800 state primary schools, including Church of England primaries, in 11 regions of England now list the hijab as part of their uniform policy, mostly as an optional item.
Feversham College is a high school level academy specializing in Science for Muslim girls aged 11-18 years. It's website spells out that a "close-fitting" hijab is "COMPULSORY" (sic).
Activists associated with the investigation cited by The Sunday Times called the uniform requirements “illiberal and repressive” and stated, “no child should be obliged to wear the hijab or any other article of religious clothing while at school.” Included among those appealing to the UK education secretary to root out such practices, especially when they appear at state funded schools, are Muslim women activists.
Of course, it's mostly a good thing when the state leaves private religious schools alone to do or require whatever they want in terms of dress code, but that state funded UK schools would enforce Muslim veils is the deepest hypocrisy in a country which has recently been known to target and punish families wanting to opt out of LGBT related curriculum. The British authorities have even threatened Orthodox Jewish schools with closure with the ultimatum: "teach your children about homosexuality and gender reassignment, or we will close you down."
In a trend that began years ago, the British education secretary began warning even Christian private schools that their teaching curriculum must reflect the "UK values" and laws concerning transgender recognition. The government now routinely cites "combating extremist" as a motive for getting private schools to conform.