An Australian Islamic college is reportedly under investigation after its principal banned girls from running in sporting events, for fear that they might "lose their virginity."
The principal of Al-Taqwa College, Omar Hallak, allegedly stopped girls from participating in running events because he thought the injuries they could possibly sustain would make them infertile.
On Thursday, April 23, Victoria State Education Minister James Merlino confirmed that an investigation is underway, and if the claims are found to be true that it "would be very concerning."
"If these claims are true they would be very concerning," Merlino said in a statement. "There are minimum standards that schools must meet, including governance minimum standards.
"I've asked the VRQA to investigate to determine whether these reports are true and, if they are, to report back to me and [state] what further action could be taken," he added.
Fairfax Media reports that the claim came from a former teacher who wrote a concerned letter to both federal and state education ministers. The teacher reported that Mr. Hallak prevented the female cross country team from participating in a 2013 and 2014 district event.
"The principal holds beliefs that if females run excessively, they may 'lose their virginity.'The teacher said she had worked at another Islamic school where girls were encouraged to participate in sporting events, and was angered and frustrated that Al-Taqwa College didn't do so as well.
"The principal believes that there is scientific evidence to indicate that if girls injure themselves, such as break their leg while playing soccer, it could render them infertile."
"I look back on my time at Al-Taqwa with frustration and anger, which is how I felt most of the time while I was working there. I did my best to stay committed to the students however in the end, I was unable to provide the same opportunities to students that I was given when I was at primary school, more than 20 years ago."Several female students also wrote a letter to Hallak questioning his decision.
"It was really shocking to find out it has been cancelled because of the excuse girls can't run," the students wrote.
"Just because we are girls doesn't mean we can't participate in running events. It also doesn't say girls can't run in the hadith [the sayings of Muhammad].""As long as girls are wearing appropriate clothes, we can run," the letter continued, according to ABC News. "As a principal you should treat all subjects equally."
Hallak has denied the allegations and claims that he encourages all students to participate in sporting events.
"We do not believe that running excessively may cause female students to lose their virginity or that sporting injuries could render them infertile," a statement to The Age newspaper read.
The secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Ghaith Krayem, said that he strongly doubts that the accusations are true. He said he thought the whole thing was a joke when he first heard about it.
"I thought this was a joke when I first read it, and I'm hoping it is a joke.[Photo via Shutterstock]
"I doubt very much that any teacher or principal would say that; I think we all understand biology a little bit better than that.
"I haven't spoken to them, but I am going to give them a call and just touch base to see if there is any possibility of truth to that."