Islamic dress code and schools

 

A chara, – I read with concern the list of grievances from the self-styled Irish Muslim Board (“Islamic dress code should be accommodated in schools, says group”, News, January 6th).

School crests and the feast of Christmas alienate Muslims? What’s next on the list ? The shamrock and St Patrick’s Day?

Joking aside, these seemingly innocuous grievances and calls for inclusiveness are not as harmless as they may appear. In France, similar language and never-ending lists of requests and recommendations are part of a strategy to remove and replace. The result is not that Muslims are included but that the French republic is excluded and French society is divided. – Yours, etc,

CIARÁN Mac GUILL,

Clichy,

France.

Sir, – The term “Islamic dress code” is used in the headline and text of the article on the Irish Muslim Board’s submission, but it is not exactly what that organisation is seeking accommodation for. In precise terms, Islam requires a woman to dress modestly, including keeping the chest covered and covering the lower body “to an appropriate length”, ie in whatever garment she considers suitable for her ongoing activity, without, of course, breaching modesty. There is no requirement to cover the hair with a headscarf (veil, hijab, etc). The head-covering and ankle-length skirt or loose trousers are imposed by custom in Muslim-majority cultures. They are not direct obligations under Islamic law. (Of course, if a father or husband commands, an obligation is created.)

In most of these countries, non-Muslim minorities are under pressure, if not required, to conform to this custom, and it could be argued that this constitutes an infringement of their rights.

I am not suggesting that on that account Muslim schoolgirls in Ireland should not be accommodated in response to the Irish Muslim Board’s submission. It should certainly be done where the problem directly relates to religious belief : a girl should be allowed to remove, or cover, a school crest that shows a cross or a saint’s image.

Religious assemblies should include prayers for Muslims, our neighbours in Ireland and worldwide, while to use Ramadan to inspire charitable actions would be a noble plan. But, please, no concession on customary but non-obligatory headscarves and floor-length trousers and skirts! – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL DRURY,

Brussels.