Alexandria Uproar over a Headscarf
CAIRO (Albawaba)- The French administered Champollion private School in Alexandria has caused an uproar by banning a 12-year-old girl wearing a headscarf from classes, an Islamic newspaper reported. Azaa Zeki was not allowed into class, or permitted to mingle with classmates, because she wore the scarf, a dress requirement for observant Muslim women.
Officials at the school, run under the auspicious of the French Embassy in Cairo, said Zeki would spend every day in the school library until she took off the head cover, the Islamic Al Wafd newspaper said last week.
Zeki's parents have threatened to take the school to a French court. They insist that wearing a scarf does not violate French secular law as it is applied in France.
Zeki's parents have enlisted the services of a Paris-based legal firm. The firm sent Adel El Nabli to Alexandria to investigate. Nabli told Al Wafd that the school had no legal right to prevent Zeki from attending classes because she wore a headscarf. Nabli said the school had violated French law.
An official from the school, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Al Wafd "under no circumstances should a student wear garments that are symbolic of religion." He said the school administration is standing firm by its demand that the girl take off the head cover, even if it leads to the school being closed.
In a statement, the French Embassy in Cairo said that the Champollion principal would deal with the matter "in accordance with regulations established by the French ministry of education and in the girl's best interests."
The embassy said the principal was taking the necessary steps to settle the dispute. Al Wafd said the rules governing the management of French schools abroad, which the paper obtained a copy of, prohibit the enforcement of any restrictions on the practice of a student's religion in French schools that operate outside France. In France, however, the constitution makes an absolute separation between religion and state, and prohibits religious symbols in schools.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)