Belgian headscarf ban sparks heated reactions
Many Muslim girls who wear a headscarf feel targeted by the measure.
The state secondary schools in Antwerp and Hoboken (also part of Antwerp) are in the midst of heated discussion regarding a decision taken by the school administration to ban all religious symbols from the next school year.
The principal of the state secondary school in Antwerp, Karin Heremans, explains that the decision to ban religious symbols stemmed from a growing pressure on Muslim girls to wear veils, even if they don't want to. The idea behind the ban is to take away the growing peer pressure.
When Karin Heremans addressed the students in the courtyard to explain the measure her words were met with booing. The police were massively present in the neighbourhood, but no incidents were reported.
During a protest action in the school the Antwerp imam Nordine Taouil, also chairman of the Muslim Executive, called on muslim parents to keep their children at home and not send them to school as long as there is a ban on headscarves. "I'm calling on all parents, muslim parents, not to send their children to school from the first of September until our rights are guaranteed," said the imam.
Other muslim associations are more moderate, but they are also protesting against the new school regulation. They do not back the imam's call to keep children at home.
Flemish nationalists especially are vocal about their disappointment
The Flemish conservative nationalist N-VA party (the big winners of the recent regional elections), thinks the imam has gone too far. The N-VA labels the imam's call to keep children at home "irresponsible".
"Mr Taouil talks about rights, but there are other rights too. Like the right of children to get an education," says Flemish MP Kris Van Dijck.
"Calling on parents not to send their children to school threatens their future."
As it is, many students of foreign origin (children who do not speak Dutch at home especially) are somewhat behind at school. Van Dijck also points out that Flemish schools are already making a great effort to implement an equal opportunities policy and to give immigrant children optimal opportunities to the have a good education.