Socialist Worker

Muslim parents furious after new attack on hijab by Ofsted’s Amanda Spielman

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2590

Protesters celebrating after blocking a planned ban on the niqab face veil at Birmingham Metropolitan College in 2013

Protesters celebrating after blocking a planned ban on the niqab face veil at Birmingham Metropolitan College in 2013 (Pic: Geoff Dexter)


Muslim parents are angry and worried after Ofsted watchdog chief executive Amanda Spielman backed a head teacher who had banned the hijab.

Neena Lall, head teacher at Newham’s St Stephen’s school, had banned the hijab for children under eight last month.

A backlash from parents forced her to lift the ban.

As well as backing Lall, Spielman also claimed that some people are using religion to “actively pervert” education. It’s clear that she means Muslims.

Her intervention follows an announcement in November that Ofsted would question primary school girls who wear the hijab.

Spielman claimed that this “could be interpreted as sexualisation” of girls. It provoked a furious response from Muslims, parents, teachers, academics and others.

Salema, a parent in Newham, told Socialist Worker, “If you can do something like this in Newham, it could happen at other schools.

“That’s how it started in France—a ban at one school. It is a threat.”

Children wear the hijab for many reasons, often to copy their parents who are their role models.

Banning the hijab stops children and parents from having a choice over whether to wear it or not.

It also makes Muslim children a target for racism. As Salema put it, “This is all to do with Islamophobia.”

Protesting against Amanda Spielmans attacks on the hijab in December

Protesting against Amanda Spielman's attacks on the hijab in December (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The Prevent programme already forces teachers and other public sector workers to spy for signs of “radicalisation” and “non-violent extremism”.

Paranoid

Salema said, “I didn’t realise that Prevent applied to year six pupils in primary school until last week. It makes me paranoid to say things that I know are fine.

“Just because someone prays five times a day does not make them an extremist.”

The row over the hijab is part of Tory and right wing media attempts to paint Muslims, migrants and refugees as dangerous and alien.

They have pushed Islamophobia partly to justify the West’s imperialist wars in the Middle East and break opposition to austerity at home.

The right wing press had a field day after four refugees, many of whom are fleeing those same wars, were shot near Calais. There was said to have been a fight among refugees.

Around 1,500 refugees are still trapped at Britain’s border in northern France.

Britain’s refusal to allow desperate refugees into the country has left people suffering in appalling conditions.

Hundreds are forced to sleep rough and face regular attacks from the cops.

Claire Moseley from the Care4Calais charity told Socialist Worker, “People aren’t sleeping, there’s no shelter, it’s worse than normal.

“If there are tensions, it’s because people are living under terrible pressures for a long time.”

The only solution is to force the Tories to open the border.

All the battles against racism have to be brought together as part of a mass movement. Salema said, “We all need to stay united and make change.”

 


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