Student thinks she knows better than Muslim women what form of dress their religious beliefs require

A student asked not to wear her cap in Bromley College says she won’t agree unless Muslim women remove their headdresses as well.

Caroline Powell, of Sevenoaks Way, Orpington, is attending Greenwich University, which uses facilities in Bromley College, Rookery Lane. While inside the Bromley College buildings, the 39-year-old has been told repeatedly to remove her cap, but believes that, while Muslim women are allowed to wear headdresses, this represents “double standards”.

The 39-year-old told News Shopper: “It started in September last year when I got stopped at the door by a woman and she said ‘you need to take your cap off’. It is a small black leather cap but it’s part of my identity. She said ‘you need to take it off, they are the rules’. A Muslim woman walked in behind me and I asked if she was going to ask her to take off her headdress. I’ve read the Koran, and it doesn’t say they have to wear it, it is a choice.”

Bromley College explained to Miss Powell her cap should be removed for security reasons.

Miss Powell, who is studying for a degree in integrative counselling, added: “They said it was so they could ID all users of the college, so nothing can obscure their face. But all these Muslim women are walking in with scarves across their face.”

Miss Powell has continued to make a stance, and over the last few months tensions between her and staff have increased to the point she fears she will be thrown off the course. She said: “If one rule is made for all then fine, but I am not going to be treated like this when everyone else is allowed to do what they want. I feel it is totally double standards.”

A Bromley College spokesperson said: “The College has a policy in place regarding student dress code, and we specify that no hoods, hats or other headwear is to be worn inside the College buildings.

“This policy has been set for reasons of security for all those using the College so that people can be clearly identified – it is also useful for not obscuring faces from CCTV. This policy has been in place during 2012/13, and forms part of the rules that each student signs up to on their enrolment form each year at College.

“The College treats all students respectfully and equally, and this policy is consistently applied to all students to protect our safe environment. We operate exceptions to this rule on the grounds of religious, medical, cultural or other reasons, and students can write to the College if they would like to be considered to be exempt, which is then assessed and the student is informed of this decision.”

News Shopper, 23 September 2013