Al Jazeera TV focus on Irish family who want hijab in schools

Arabic news network Al Jazeera has taken an active interest in the plight of an Irish girl who wants to wear a religious headscarf to school.

The Egan family from Wexford, who were caught up in the row over the wearing of the hijab in Irish schools have been featured on the Al Jazeera English channel. Liam and his wife Beverley requested that their 14-year-old daughter, Shekinah Egan, be allowed to wear the religious headdress to Gorey Community School last September, sparking debate on the issue.

The Government refused to take a stand on the issue, leaving it as a matter for individual schools. Mr Egan has accused the Government of repressing minority rights while “flaunting itself as the bastion of democracy”.

The father of the young schoolgirl spoke to the news network and said that, “It is time the world witnessed the true face of Ireland. “The issue of the hijab [Islamic headscarf] is a reflection of how Ireland treats its minorities,” he said. “It has silently repressed Muslim rights while flaunting itself as the bastion of democracy for far too long.”

Shekinah Egan was allowed to continue wearing the headscarf. However her father claims that several schools moved towards banning the wearing of the hijab, with one school in Dublin stating it violates the country’s “Catholic ethos”.

Ruairi Quinn, Labour Party spokesman, recently spoke about how immigrants who come to Ireland “need to conform”. However, the Egans in Wexford are an Irish family who have converted to Islam. Liam Egan converted to Islam at the age of 28 and his wife Beverley MacKenzie is British born.

“This is not an immigrant issue,” Liam Egan proclaimed. “It’s about freedom to practise religious beliefs. We should not follow the lead of France, where there is no tolerance. People say we should assimilate, but I was born in Wexford – I am Irish and Muslim.”

Evening Herald, 16 September 2008