East London primary school bans the hijab

Headteacher Neena Lall poses for photographs at St Stephen's Primary School

A primary school in East London with a large Muslim intake has banned the hijab for pupils up to the age of 7.

St Stephen’s Primary School in Upton Park, Newham, has already banned the hijab in sports lessons because it allegedly “hinders movement.” It also discourages fasting on “health and safety” grounds.

In a video on the right-wing The Sunday Times website the school’s non-Muslim headteacher, Neena Lall, said that she wanted to teach the children to be British and that they should feel fortunate to be in the British education system.

She added: “They can still practise their religion and their culture but also take the best that this country has to offer. And every child, every member of staff and every parent buy into that vision because it works and what we are doing here is for the good of the children so that they can integrate into society.”

The Department of Education said: “It is a matter for individual schools to decide how to accommodate children observing Ramadan, and to set uniform policies.”

It is not clear what the views of Muslim parents and children at the school are but Muslim educationalist Yusuf Patel said the move smacked of “social engineering” and “forced assimilation.”

He said: “My own view is that this is a very clear case of schools overstepping their mark and delving into parenting issues. Their role is simply to educate our children without taking over responsibility for the values that parents should be responsible for.”

In recent years there has been a campaign against the hijab in schools led by right-wing ideologues, secular fundamentalists and anti-Muslim activists.

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