A Roman Catholic School has found itself at the centre of a social media storm after telling parents of a four-year-old Muslim girl she should not wear the hijab to school.
St Clare’s School in Handsworth, has a strict uniform policy, including no headwear or scarf and asked parents of the girl to respect it.
The row has now divided senior councillors and women’s rights activists who have been locked in a row over Facebook and Twitter.
But her father called on Birmingham City Council’s Labour cabinet member for equalities Waseem Zaffar to intervene causing the row to erupt.
Councillor Zaffar wrote that he had met with the head teacher and told her the ban on the scarf was against the equalities act.
He added: ‘I’m insisting this matter is addressed asap with a change of policy.’
But his cabinet colleague Coun Majid Mahmood (Hodge Hill) countered that as a faith school St Clare’s is ‘maybe within its rights to insist upon a particular dress code,’ just as a Muslim faith school ‘may require girls to wear headscarves’.
Dr Mashuq Ally, a former head of equalities for Birmingham City Council, agreed that there is no religious requirement for girls of infant school age to wear the hijab.
He also pointed out that a faith school is allowed to set its own uniform policy and exempt from discrimination legislation.
Where there are demographic changes which lead to a significant number of Muslim children attending a Christian school, then the parents should ask the school governors to consider changing the uniform policy he explained.
He added: ‘I also would have thought a Muslim parent would have thought very carefully about sending their child to a Roman Catholic school and considered the uniform policy.