Ireland: 48% support right to wear hijab in schools

Almost half of people feel the wearing of hijabs or headscarves by Muslim students should be allowed in State schools, according to the latest Irish Times /TNS mrbi poll. While 48 per cent agree with their use in State schools, 39 per cent do not and 13 per cent have no opinion.

A breakdown of the figures show that while a clear majority of younger people agree with the use of hijabs, older people are more likely to be opposed.

Green Party voters are among the most likely to agree (69 per cent), followed by Sinn Féin and Independents (57 per cent) and Fianna Fáil (48 per cent). Labour and Fine Gael voters are split evenly.

Women are more likely to agree (55 per cent) compared with men (42 per cent).

People are also divided on whether the Government should produce guidelines on the wearing of hijabs in State schools. A total of 49 per cent agree that the State should provide guidelines, while 41 per cent feel the State should not get involved in the issue and 10 per cent have no opinion.

The poll was conducted last Tuesday and Wednesday among a representative sample of 1,000 voters in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all 43 constituencies.

Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe has said that the Government will consider whether to issue guidelines on the wearing of the hijab in schools when it drafts an intercultural education strategy later this year.

Some teachers’ groups and the State’s advisory body on interculturalism have signalled that national guidelines should be avoided and the issue should be dealt with on a case by case basis.

The poll indicates that there is little difference on the issue between rural and urban areas. When broken down by social class, people from better-off backgrounds were more likely to agree with the use of the headscarf or hijab.

Irish Times, 9 June 2008