Schools in the Belgian Dutch-speaking region of Flanders are to ban the wearing of the Muslim headscarf by their girl pupils.
After a decision by the region’s school board, around a fifth of schools say they will implement the ban immediately – others have up to a year to follow. Two schools are already enforcing the ban. Headteacher Chris Weyers explained: “96 percent of the pupils were Muslims. And it was a great pressure on the students who weren’t Muslims, or that were Muslims but did not wear the scarf, and so our pupils weren’t free anymore.” While some girls have complied with the ban – removing their scarves while in school – Muslim groups have strongly condemned the move. Angry pupils have staged protests outside the school and one girl has filed a complaint with the Belgian Council of State to contest the ban. While protests are expected to continue, Belgium is not the first to ban the scarf. In 2004 France passed a law forbidding the wearing of all conspicuous religious symbols in schools.