Our French correspondent Robert Marchenoir has kindly translated an article from Bivouac-ID about a Belgian imam who has called for a boycott of local schools, due to their prohibition of the wearing of veils by students:
More than 300 Muslim pupils threaten to quit their schools
June 27, 2009 — Nordine Taouil, an imam in the Belgian town of Antwerp, has called “all Muslim parents to refrain from sending their children to school starting from the new term”, in the event that the ban on the veil decided on June 23 by two of the towns’ secondary schools is confirmed. “If you are not allowed to wear the veil, stay at home, don’t go back to school in September,” he said. The religious leader says he wants “an harmonious school, where it is possible to live one’s religion.”
The Belgian imam, of Moroccan descent, thinks that “in a democracy, everybody must be welcome in the school they choose”, and that therefore wearing the veil is a right which cannot be denied to Muslim pupils.
In Belgium, each school has its own policy regarding the veil. While a group of French MP’s recently called for a ban on the burqa, the controversy resumed in Belgium when Mahinur Özdemir, a veiled member of parliament, took her oath in Brussels on June 23.
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The royal secondary schools of Antwerp and Hoboken decided to change their regulations, banning all political and religious symbols. This decision, based on the principle of “active pluralism”, is meant to safeguard the freedom and equality necessary to each pupil’s development.
Since both schools harbour a significant proportion of pupils of foreign descent, it was deemed that some of them might be pressured by their community into wearing political or religious symbols. In accordance with their southern neighbours in Belgium, the city’s authorities are intent on leaving the schools perfectly autonomous on that matter.
As soon as the change in regulations was announced, many pupils protested. An informational meeting was held on June 24. Tension had dropped, until Nordine Taouil called for a boycott. This was described as “irresponsible” by Flemish politicians. Bart de Wever, president of the separatist Flemish party N-VA, said that “the schools’ administrators are entitled to take action in order to foster harmony within their institutions”.