Children as young as five are being allowed to wear hijabs by potentially thousands of state primary schools, alarming campaigners who say the Muslim headscarf sexualises children.
The rise of British primary schools including hijabs in their approved uniform lists — a garment which Muslims say preserves a woman’s modesty, but is traditionally not worn until puberty — was reported by The Sunday Times, which surveyed 800 state primary schools on their policies regarding the headscarf.
Noting “growing concern” over hijabs increasingly appearing in primary school uniform lists, education regulator Ofsted is looking into whether “there is evidence that schools are facing external pressure”, from parents or religious groups to include the garment as official school uniform, a source said.
Hijab Girl in Children’s Book Slammed for ‘Sexualising Four-Year-Olds’https://t.co/DCHKqFk0jS
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 14, 2017
Almost one in five (18 per cent) schools surveyed by The Sunday Times, across 11 regions of England, list the Islamic headscarf as part of their uniform policy, meaning the total figure in the context of England’s 17,000 primary schools is likely to run into thousands.
Almost half (46 per cent) of 72 primary schools in Birmingham whose websites were checked by the newspaper included the hijab in their written uniform policy.
In Tower Hamlets and Luton, two areas which, like Birmingham, have a large proportion of children from Muslim backgrounds, the proportion of primary schools with an online headscarf policy were 34 per cent and 36 per cent respectively.
Muslim women’s rights activists and church leaders have spoken out on the rise in schools allowing young children to wear hijabs, with former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey stating that the formalisation of the garments on primary schools’ uniform lists should be “fiercely resisted”.
He added: “Personally, I am against the wearing of hijabs altogether. I believe we are in a secular western country largely influenced by the Christian faith.”
Gina Khan, a campaigner for the rights of Muslim women and children, told The Sunday Times: “Schools are allowing it because they are afraid of being called Islamophobic and they have been told that this is a religious garment — but they need to support Muslim girls to have free choices, not to be set apart from other children.”
Former Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali also expressed alarm at the listing of hijabs among other officially approved items of uniform by British primary schools, commenting: “By including [the garment] in a policy, parents may come under pressure from religious leaders — who might say you are not a good Muslim if you do not do it.”
According to the BBC, wearing a hijab during a basketball game is “a big step forward in women’s sport” https://t.co/4laf6B5PiU
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) May 5, 2017
Nicky Morgan — a liberal Tory former education secretary under whose watch one Christian school was closed down and another forced into “special measures” for failing to sufficiently promote positive views about Muslims and homosexuality — said it was important not to get “too hung up” about hijabs as part of young girls’ attire at primary schools, calling the issue “a debate for the Muslim community to have”.
“If a school decided to allow a pupil to wear a burqa, that would be up to the school,” added the anti-Brexit politician, who serves as MP for Loughborough.
Last month, Breitbart London reported how Transport for London was forced to drop a £2 million road safety campaign for featuring a hijab-clad four-year-old girl, whose inclusion critics said sexualised children and marked the “Saudi-isation of British Muslim identity”.