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Al Jazeera TV focus on Irish family who want hijab in schools

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ARABIC news network Al Jazeera has taken an active interest in the plight of an Irish girl who wants to wear a religious headscarf to school.

The Egan family from Wexford, who were caught up in the row over the wearing of the hijab in Irish schools have been featured on the Al Jazeera English channel.

Liam and his wife Beverley requested that their 14-year-old daughter, Shekinah Egan, be allowed to wear the religious headdress to Gorey Community School last September, sparking debate on the issue.

While Shekinah was allowed to wear the hijab, the Government refused to take a stand on the issue, leaving it as a matter for individual schools.

Mr Egan has accused the Government of repressing minority rights while "flaunting itself as the bastion of democracy".

The father of the young schoolgirl spoke to the news network and said that, "It is time the world witnessed the true face of Ireland.

"The issue of the hijab [Islamic headscarf] is a reflection of how Ireland treats its minorities," he said.

"It has silently repressed Muslim rights while flaunting itself as the bastion of democracy for far too long."

Ireland has, to date, not followed the controversial rulings in France and England where girls have been prohibited from wearing a hijab.

The Minister for Integration, Conor Lenihan, wrote to schools about the issue in July. The matter has been agreed at official level, and Minister Lenihan is due to have talks with Minister for Education, Batt O'Keeffe.

The board of management in Gorey Community School granted Shekinah permission to wear the clothing, but the principal requested an official policy for all schools in Ireland from the Department of Education.

The department said at the time that existing guidelines should remain in place, where the wearing of the hijab was subject to the decision of individual boards of management, providing that the colour is consistent with the existing school uniform.

Shekinah Egan was allowed to continue wearing the headscarf. However her father claims that several schools moved towards banning the wearing of the hijab, with one school in Dublin stating it violates the country's "Catholic ethos".

Conform

Ruairi Quinn, Labour Party spokesman, recently spoke about how immigrants who come to Ireland "need to conform".

However, the Egans in Wexford are an Irish family who have converted to Islam. Liam Egan converted to Islam at the age of 28 and his wife Beverley MacKenzie is British born.

"This is not an immigrant issue," Liam Egan proclaimed. "It's about freedom to practise religious beliefs. We should not follow the lead of France, where there is no tolerance."

"People say we should assimilate, but I was born in Wexford -- I am Irish and Muslim."


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