“Turban or not to ban: that is the question”, as Britain’s greatest wordsmith once very nearly wrote, is a thought that will have crossed every school, academy or college’s figurative mind at some point or another.
In today’s ever globalising society we encounter people of different faiths on a daily basis. In 2004, France issued a ban on Islamic head scarves in state schools, and since then the number of British people of non-Christian faith has risen by over 35%. In light of the recent cases reported of pupils being disciplined for wearing religious symbols in school, we thought that it was time to raise the question that has exponentially troubled politicians, councils and headteachers nationwide.
We asked Mrs Burnette Ward, head of Wycliffe College for the school’s policy on the matter, and got this response; ‘At Wycliffe we respect religious faiths and encourage tolerance and understanding among our pupils. We have always welcomed students with a wide variety of religious beliefs and whilst we are a Christian school, we support the practice of other faiths. If there were a situation in which someone’s genuinely-held beliefs contradicted our uniform code, then we would negotiate a reasonable compromise that recognised what they need to do but also respects the school’s own traditions. Each case would be considered on its own merits.’
Wycliffe is proudly a multicultural school, and in many religious followings worldwide, one’s appearance is crucial to their belief. This made us think, ‘In the less accommodating schools, why is even the concept of a school’s policy being more important than that of a person’s religion even being considered?’ It seemed to us to be immoral to revoke somebody of their fundamental freedom of expression. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression’. If the figureheads of our society think that it is acceptable to simply ignore this, then surely it’s reasonable...