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Austin Cline

Girl Wins Right to Wear Hijab in School

By May 20, 2004

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I reported before on the case of Nashala "Tallah" Hern, A sixth-grade who was asked to leave school in the eastern Oklahoma town of Muskogee because she refused to remove her head scarf (hijab). The U.S. government joined her lawsuit against the school - and now the school has decided to settle instead of fight.

CNN reports;

"This settlement reaffirms the principle that public schools cannot require students to check their faith at the schoolhouse door," said R. Alexander Acosta, assistant attorney general for civil rights. ... The settlement requires the district to put in place a training program for all teachers and administrators about the new dress code and to publicize the change, the AP reported. ... "The Department of Justice will not tolerate discrimination against Muslims or any other religious group. As the president and attorney general have made clear repeatedly, such intolerance is un-American and is morally despicable," Acosta said.

I’m happy for Hern and I’m happy to see the Justice Department fight to defend Muslims against discrimination, but assuming that this “settlement” applies only to the idea that there should be exceptions to things like dress codes for religious reasons, then I don’t think that the settlement or the case turned out very well.

As I wrote last year when Hern was first suspended for wearing her hijab:

It is always a shame when general rules or laws create problems for religious behavior, but there are a couple of facts which need to kept in mind. First, Muslim women are under no absolute obligation to wear head scarves. Women are supposed to dress modestly, which some interpret as requiring head coverings but others interpret as requiring full body covering. This is a matter of personal religious conscience, not general religious obligation.
The second important issue follows closely from the first: there is no legitimate reason to exempt people from general rules or laws for religious reasons if the exemption extends only to religious reasons. Any exemptions, if they are to exist at all, must be available generally to anyone who finds compliance to be a sincere violation of their conscience - this would encompass religious obligations, matters of private religious conscience, and matters of conscience which fall outside of religious structures. Otherwise, the exemptions will favor religious beliefs over non-religious beliefs and, at times, the demands of organized religion over those of loosely structured religious systems. Neither situation is acceptable in a nation which values religious freedom.

I don’t think that anything as changed which would invalidate those points.

Read More:

August 12, 2007 at 3:05 pm
(1) Eshe says:

You are so wrong.It is a “MuST” for Muslim women to wear hijab.It is written in our Holy Quran that the women must do this.It is not a preference thing.The Muslim women who do not wear it choose to disobey what has been written for us to do.It is obligatory part of the religion.

August 12, 2007 at 3:13 pm
(2) Austin Cline says:

It is written in our Holy Quran that the women must do this. It is not a preference thing. The Muslim women who do not wear it choose to disobey what has been written for us to do. It is obligatory part of the religion.

Then you should be able to cite the exact passage where “hijab” is listed as a requirement.

January 24, 2009 at 5:18 pm
(3) NewYorkMuslimah says:

it is not a requirement for mulimahs to wear hijab!!! ‘Eshe’ you are so wrong!! =P =[

April 12, 2009 at 8:10 pm
(4) hani says:

actually ESHE is right. is a must for a girl 2 wear a hijaab. when a woman wears a hijaab she is representing the muslims. if you read the quraan you will find lots of evidnece that talks about the importance of hijaab. you should also go and speak to the scholars they would tell you much about it.

there is an ayaa (verse) in the quraan that say “oh bothers tell you wife, sister to cover them selves”. and the ayaah goes on but inshalah i will find you the full version of the verse and i will post it arabic and translate in english so you can beleive is complusary for a woman 2 cover her whole body using hijaab

September 7, 2009 at 4:51 am
(5) Maia says:

Just to add information: There are 2 verses of the Qur’an and also hadith (sayings of the Prophet) that have been interpreted by EVERY juristic school (Shia and Sunni, Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi, Hanbali, etc) as mandating a woman to cover all of her body except her face and hands (feet are debated). Furthermore, Hanafi scholars and others consider covering the face to be compulsory. I am not aware of ANY traditional scholar that disagrees. The fact that some Muslims don’t observe hijab doesn’t mean that it is not obligatory. They are just disobedient in this regard.

In the USA, a wide variety of hairstyles and personal appearances are accepted. Why is a headscarf more objectionable than a nose ring, tattoos, or disks that stretch out ones earlobes? Why should a woman with hair loss due to cancer or a Jewish woman be able to wear a wig or scarf, but not a Muslim woman? Some hairstyles are downright unsanitary, very voluminous or attention-grabbing, etc. Many Muslim women who normally wear large, flowing scarves, wear a tighter, neat version for work that is close to the head and tucks into the neck of the shirt. At least ther hair won’t fall into your soup or your surgical site…

September 17, 2010 at 12:57 am
(6) Revertive says:

It is required for Muslim women to wear hijab. The verse is 24:31, where Allah commands the believing women to take a portion of their “khumur” (plural for khimar) and extend it over their décolletage (there’s no good English translation for this Arabic word “juyub” which means breasts, cleavage, and necks). So while the word “hijab” does not appear in the Qur’an, the word “khimar” does. Any simple google search will reveal that khimar is indeed a type of head covering available at many stores.

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