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Published in the 1-15 December 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Muslim girls attend school in veils

Bhopal: Muslim girls at a co-educational high school in Madhya Pradesh have started appearing for their classes in veils, leaving school authorities in a dilemma. The controversy started when two Muslim girls came to the Government High School in Betul wearing veils last month. Taking the veils to be a violation of the school uniform, their class teacher did not allow them to attend, and sent them home.

The next day all the 56 Muslim girls in the school of 400 students appeared in veils. School authorities could not muster the courage to turn them all away and so allowed them to attend their classes. The principal, Pushplata Chaudhury, held a meeting with some of the girls' guardians the same day. The guardians said they would decide on the matter only after discussing it with leaders of the community.

Unable to decide on the sensitive issue, Chaudhury wrote letters to the district collector and the education department seeking directions. In her letter, she has cited a number of reasons why veils shouldn't be allowed inside the school.
Allowing veils would increase the chances of unwanted people entering the school stealthily and causing trouble. Girls of other communities would also start appearing in their traditional dresses, violating the school's dress code. And veils would also cause a problem during examinations, she wrote.

Betul's education officer S.S. Thakur feels that wearing veils violated the school's dress code, but is yet to take a decision. But Ishaq Ahmed, a local Muslim religious leader, said veils were a must for girls in co-educational schools. "If the need for verification arises, female teachers can always lift the veils to see the faces of students," he said.

"The girls may remove their veils once they are in their classrooms. But we will withdraw our girls from the school if they are not allowed to go to school in veils," said Rehman Sayyed, a resident of Garg Colony, where the school is located.

A senior education department officer in the state capital Bhopal said that the issue had been brought to their notice, but they too were yet to find a solution (IANS).

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