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I'm not in favour of full-face veils says Muslim school head

THE principal of one of Dublin's Muslim schools has admitted that he would "not be happy" to see his pupils wear the full veil in classes.

Colm McGlade, from the National Muslim School in Clonskeagh, was commenting on the new school uniform guidelines issued by the Joint Managerial Body to Catholic secondary schools earlier this week.

The guidelines were drawn up by Aiveen Mullally, an expert on religion and culture, and relate to the Inclusion of Students from Other Faiths in Secondary Schools.

They differentiate between the niqab, a full veil that covers a girl's face and the hijab, one that only hides a woman's hair and neck.

"We're a primary school -- none of the girls here wear the niqab, the girls in fifth and sixth class are encouraged to wear the hijab as some of them are approaching or have reached the age of puberty," Mr McGlade told the Herald.

"It's up to the parents really and should they want their daughters to wear the hijab, we ask them to wear one that is white as part of the school uniform. We've never had a rule on niqab. It's just not worn but I expect that if we were a secondary school we might have girls who would want to wear it.

Different

"If a pupil were to show up wearing one, I would not be happy with it, but ultimately it would be up to the school's board of management to discuss it.

"From a school's point of view, I would see it as not desirable," he added.

Mr McGlade believes that the niqab is completely different from the hijab, in that it often prohibits contact between Irish nationals and the country's Muslim community of almost 50,000 people.

"If a teacher were asking questions in class and a girl wearing a niqab were answering, it would be difficult for the rest of the class to hear her," he explained.

"And there's something about the niqab that prevents others from showing their friendliness. It is a barrier to communication."

While all of the school's 290 pupils are Muslim, Mr McGlade did not rule out the possibility of establishing a dress code for students of other denominations should they join the establishment.

"I'm all for people's freedom to dress in the way they are comfortable with and as long as it's not offensive to society.

"Each school must decide its own code of behaviour and own dress code in keeping with their ethos. It's up to them to decide it and I can certainly understand their decision.

"All of our pupils are Muslim. If a non-Muslim pupil applied for the school and we had enough place to take her in, we wouldn't ask her to wear a hijab. As for signs of other religions, we would have to discuss it with the board of management."

hnews@herald.ie


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