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Kashmir school sparks row with hijab circular

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Srinagar: A controversy broke out in Kashmir on Wednesday after it came to light that a school in Baramulla had issued a circular asking staff members to refrain from wearing the hijab during school hours.

The circular was issued on April 25 by the principal of the Dagger Parivaar school — run by an NGO under the aegis of the army for specially abled children.

Political parties hit out at the circular on Wednesday while the school said the circular had been changed and staff members would be asked to refrain from weaing the niqab (face cover) in classrooms.

“The Dagger Parivaar School is a place to learn and grow emotionally and morally. As the staff of the school, the main purpose is to provide for the fullest possible development of each learner. For the same, the trust must be established with the students to make them feel welcome, safe & happy. The staff is hereby instructed to avoid hijab during school hours so that students can feel comfortable and are forthcoming to interact with teachers & staff,” the circular, signed by the principal, read.

The order prompted outrage across the UT with people saying it was along the lines of the Karnataka high court orders on the hijab.

“I condemn this letter issuing diktats on hijab. J&K may be ruled by BJP[ Bharatiya Janata Party] but it’s certainly not like any other state where they bulldoze the houses of minorities & not allow them the freedom to dress as they want. Our girls will not give up their right to choose,” said former chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti in a tweet on Wednesday.

National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah told reporters it was an attempt to sow hatred in the UT. “If the education of the students was getting affected (by hijab) then why wasn’t such an order issued before Karnataka? Why did they see the impact after Karnataka?. This atmosphere is being created for politics,” he said.

“We are being asked not to use loudspeakers in mosques. Why is it so when all other places use it. You are telling us Halal meat should not be sold, why? It is in our religion and we are not forcing you eat. Aren’t mics used in temples and gurdwaras. But why do you have you problems with our mics and our religion. Only our clothes you don’t like or our prayers. This hatred is being spread here,” he said.

A representative of the school said on condition of anonymity that the circular was the result of a miscommuncation.

“It was a miscommunication and it has been blown out of proportion. We have modified the circular and restricted it for Niqab(face coverings)in class rooms only, not Hijab(covering head and body),” the official said.

“The motive was that the children, who are young and specially abled, are able to focus and interact properly with the teacher. We are not making Karnataka here,” the official added.

Army PRO Colonel Emron Musavi said the ciruclar was for those teachers wearing Niqab (face cover)where the students are not able to see the lip movement of their teachers.

“These children are specially-abled and this is why lip movement of teachers is important for them. This has nothing to do with religion. Army runs so many schools here and no such circular has been ever issued anywhere,” he said.

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