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Bangladesh court to decide on freedom to wear burkhas in schools

  • Published at 08:20 pm March 10th, 2019
burqa burka burkha
Women wearing burkha. Representative image Bigstock

The writ was filed in response to students being harassed over wearing burkhas to classroom, petitioners say

The High Court will dispose of a rule on ensuring female students’ right to wear burka in schools on March 14.

The bench of Justice Moinul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Md Ashraful Kamal will hear arguments from the state’s attorneys on that day and rule on the writ petition.

Petitioner’s lawyer, Sheikh Omar Sharif, presented his case in front of the bench on Sunday.

Omar and Advocate Md Ahsan filed the writ on January 17 on behalf of Daily Al Ehsan and Al Bayinat magazine Editor Allama Md Mahbub Alam, and Allama Abur Khayer Md Azizullah, the khatib of Taj Jama Mosque in Dhaka.

The lawyer says the writ is a response to incidents of harassment of schoolgirls who wore burkhas to class. It seeks an order on effective measures to ensure the right of female students to wear burkhas in the classroom. It has also sought a rule as to why action will not be taken against schools and headmasters who prevented students from wearing burkhas. The education secretary, home secretary and director general of Directorate of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education were made respondents to the writ.

“Students have been harassed over wearing the burkha. We previously sent a legal notice to the education secretary, home secretary and director general of Directorate of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education to take necessary measures against this,” Omar told Bangla Tribune.

“As there was no response to the notice, we filed a writ with the High Court,” he said.

The writ says the petitioners are aggrieved by the harassment of female students over wearing burkha.

It claimed that a teacher of Chittagong city’s Maijpara Mahmudunnabi Chowdhury High School scolded a student and threw her out of the class for wearing burkha.

The next day the headmaster insulted the girl’s mother when she went to lodge an appeal, it said.

The writ claimed that all Muslims are obligated to wear religious attire, and as such anyone has the right to wear their religious clothing over their uniforms.

Aritcle 41 of the constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to accept and observe any religion, and therefore preventing students from wearing the burkha infringes on their constitutional right, the writ said.

Burkha bans around the world

There are 12 countries in the world that have instituted a regional or national ban on the wearing of burkhas by women, including eight European nations.

France is the leading proponent of this ban. The country banned the display of any religious symbol in public schools in 2004. In 2010 it introduced a law that banned the covering of face in public places, touting security concerns.
Map of countries that have instituted a burkha ban. Courtesy: The TelegraphFour African nations banned the burkha after terrorists used them to carry out suicide bombing attacks.

The only Muslim majority country to have such a ban in place is Turkey, which prohibits wearing the veil for women working in public institutions.