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Group to lobby for right to wear hijab

Resource type: News

The Irish Times |

by PATSY McGARRY A NEWLY formed Muslim group has been set up to help ensure the continued rights of Muslim women to wear the hijab in Ireland. The Irish Hijab Campaign will lobby for legislation to protect and support those wearing the hijab. It hopes to educate the general public on its significance and for its normalisation in Irish society, as well as advocating its incorporation into work, leisure, etc (ie as a uniform). On June 14th, a representative body of Muslims met in response to controversy regarding the wearing of the hijab in schools. They formed the Irish Hijab Campaign, which is spearheaded by a core committee of Irish Muslims. One third of the estimated 45,000 Muslims in the Republic are Irish-born. Their meeting followed debate last May when Nicholas Sweetman, principal of Gorey Community School, Wexford, said official direction would bring an end to schools divergent policies on wearing the hijab and would clarify the issue for all. Correspondence released under the Freedom of Information Act showed the school wrote to then minister for education Mary Hanafin in October 2007, when a Muslim couple asked that their child be allowed wear the hijab in class. Though this contravened rules on uniforms, Mr Sweetman agreed, pending approval by the board of management. This approval was later granted by the school board. Yesterday Shekinah McKenzie (14), the girl at the centre of the Gorey school controversy, wore the hijab on the first day back and was filmed by Al Jazeera TV. Her mother, Suad Beverley McKenzie, chairwoman of the Irish Hijab Campaign, said last night she and other IHC members had met TDs to discuss the issue during the summer. She said the IHC was seeking firmer guidelines on freedom to wear the hijab. An inaugural National Integration Debate, hosted by An Post in association with the Office of the Minister for Integration Conor Lenihan, takes place in Dublin on September 10th at which results of an ámarach Research poll on public attitudes to integration will be presented. Speakers will include Mr Lenihan with a keynote address from the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

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