Oklahoma student suspended for wearing Hijab
CAIR today called on the Oklahoma State Department of Education to intervene after a Muslim public school student in that state was suspended twice for wearing a religiously-mandated head scarf, or hijab.
School officials in Muskogee, Okla., told the sixth-grader at Benjamin Franklin Science Academy that her head scarf violates their dress code policy. That policy prohibits hats, caps, bandanas or other headwear. The girl’s father told the Muskogee Daily Phoenix (10/9/03) newspaper: “The principal kept saying it was not religious wear. They said if my daughter keeps wearing her hijab to school, they are going to kick her out.”
On Oct. 1, the Muslim student was suspended for three days for wearing the scarf. When she returned to school still wearing hijab, she was suspended a second time for five days.
“This is a clear violation of the student’s right to freely practice her faith and must be dealt with at the state level,” said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. He told the Daily Phoenix: “This is not an issue of separation of church and state because she is not imposing religion on anyone…Not allowing this girl to go to school because of her religious beliefs is un-American.”
Hooper cited the First Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 as supporting the girl’s right to wear her Islamic scarf. RFRA mandates that “government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion.”
He also cited guidelines on religious expression in public schools distributed by the Department of Education that state: “When wearing particular attire, such as yarmulkes and head scarves, during the school day is part of students' religious practice, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act schools generally may not prohibit the wearing of such items.”