LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An English college has banned all forms of headgear, including veils and headscarves, so that staff, students and visitors can easily be identified, drawing accusations by Muslim students that it is discriminating against them, the Telegraph reported.
The Metropolitan College in the Midlands city of Birmingham adopted the policy – which bans hats, caps and hoodies as well as the niqab, the full veil worn by some Muslim women that leaves only the eyes visible - so that individuals are "easily identifiable at all times," the British newspaper’s website reported.
"It's disgusting. It is a personal choice and I find it absolutely shocking that this has been brought in at a college in Birmingham city centre when the city is so multicultural and so many of the students are Muslim,” a 17-year-old Muslim student who was about to start at the college told the Telegraph on condition of anonymity.
"It upsets me that we are being discriminated against,” said the student, who was notified about the rule at the start of the new term last week and decided to look for another school.
The college’s principal, Dame Christine Braddock, said the policy had been put in place for the students’ safety.
"To ensure that safeguarding is a priority, we have developed our policy alongside student views to ensure we keep them safe,” Braddock told the Telegraph, stressing the college’s “very robust equality, diversity and inclusion policy.”
"This needs individuals to be easily identifiable at all times when they are on college premises and this includes the removal of hoodies, hats, caps and veils so that faces are visible,” she said.
The Telegraph said legislation proposed by Conservative MP Philip Hollobone would ban wearing in public “a garment or other object” which covers an individual’s face, and is being debated in parliament.
France, which has a large Muslim minority, banned the wearing of face-covering headgear in public places in 2011. It banned the wearing of all conspicuous religious symbols in state schools in 2004, saying this was done to emphasise the separation of church and state.