100 Muslim Women Respond To Ofsted Proposal To Quiz Young Children Who Wear The Headscarf

23 November 2017

Today, Secretary General of the MCB, Harun Khan, has written to Ofsted Chief, Amanda Spielman, to invite her to hear the views of Muslim parents, teachers and communities directly, in response to her latest announcement of Ofsted inspectors ‘quizzing’ young girls who wear the headscarf.

He writes, “Whilst there are legitimate discussions and debates amongst parents about whether young children should wear a headscarf at school and what is appropriate in terms of school uniform policy; we fear that the Ofsted’s approach and the language used, will give the impression that you do not understand the communities which are being targeted”.

The letter highlights that ‘significant concern was raised within Muslim communities’, which have been briefly reflected in a statement by the MCB immediately after the announcement.

The MCB has since heard from over 100 Muslim women, who have given their thoughts on what they think of the idea.

One Muslim woman, Lubaaba Al Azami, a Doctoral Researcher from Buckinghamshire, said “As a Muslim woman who wore the hijab in primary school and wear it now in adulthood, my attire has consistently been my choice. My childhood hijab was a choice to imitate my mother, feel grown up and express my identity – sentiments many a child will identify with. Neither was I prevented from wearing it; a child must be permitted to express their childhood. Being questioned by officials and teachers about my hijab would have been traumatic, especially at that young age.”

While Wafaa Almoathin, a Biology teacher in London said, “Hijab is about self respect, freedom and dignity. Most of the time, young girls choose to wear it as a form of imitating their role models, who they admire and aspire to be like. That does not mean that the Hijab is being imposed on them, and it certainly does not mean that they are being fed ideas which sexualise them in any way”.

Manal from London said: “Although I don’t think girls as young as 5 should wear it, I need to say that my daughter really really wanted to wear it at age 5, because she loved to imitate me and saw me putting it on every time before I left the house. I only forbade her to do so, because I knew people would criticise me and ask me why I make her wear it at such a young age. She begged me again and again to wear it. At age 8 I gave in”.

Tahira Sabri, a Secondary Teacher in Scotland said,” My grand daughter of 6 asked her Mum if she could wear it to school and likes to change the colours to suit her mood. For her it’s like a hair accessory. Why would I question it?”

Heena Khaled, Programme Associate in Human Rights, said, “My niece wore it briefly and took it off. Many parents don’t take their decision seriously as it’s not something that will shape them. As my younger self, I always wanted to be 10 years older and used to copy my elder sisters. I have also been told of an account about one young girl who wore a headscarf at the age of 8 when she lost her parent and she wore it as part of her healing process, however that was her own decision and personal to her. Many young girls have their own journeys and we mustn’t sell their level of intellect so short in the age of social media”

Pinkie Uddin, a Speech and Language Therapist in London said, “For a long time now society has deemed it necessary to make comments on what a girl wears, whether it’s a hijab or something revealing and time and time again we women have said, it is our choice what we wear. If ofsted are looking to find out more about the hijab they are welcome to in a respectful manner, however to take it upon themselves to specifically quiz young girls about the hijab can be seen as bullish and inappropriate. Ofsted claim that hijab can be seen as sexualisation of young girls seems pretty baseless, as anyone who is low enough to sexualise a young girl will sexualise them regardless of what they wear”.

The 100 responses have been collated, and can be seen together with the full letter here.

Notes to Editors: 

The Muslim Council of Britain is the UK’s largest Muslim umbrella body with over
500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques,
charities and schools.

For further information please contact:
The Muslim Council of Britain
PO Box 57330
E1 2WJ
Tel: 0845 26 26 786
Fax: 0207 247 7079
[email protected]

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