Muslim girl’s headscarf divides Spain

Pressure was mounting in Spain on Friday to resolve the case of a Muslim girl who was expelled from school because she started wearing the Islamic headscarf in class.

Najwa Malha, 16, a Spaniard of Moroccan origin, would not accept to go to another school which admits headscarves, her father Mohammed Malha told the daily El Pais. The governing board of the school in Pozuelo de Alarcon near Madrid recently confirmed the school’s earlier decision not to admit Najwa to class unless she took her scarf off.

Three of Najwa’s classmates, who were also Muslims, started wearing the hijab to show their solidarity with her. But the girls have now removed the scarves for fear of being attacked, after anti-Islamic stickers appeared and were removed from the school gates, reports said.

An internet support forum for Najwa has collected hundreds of signatures while the human rights group Amnesty International also sided with her. Islamic associations have called protests and pledged to take the case to courts.

Najwa’s case has divided politicians, with the governing Socialists generally stressing the need for tolerance and dialogue, while some politicians in the ranks of the opposition conservatives described the hijab as a sign of discrimination against women. Children’s right to education was more important than anything else, Education Minister Angel Gabilondo said, describing the hijab as a “sign of a particular identity which does not attack others.”

Earth Times, 23 April 2010