One of two 14-year-old Muslim students has been allowed to return to a Roman Catholic high school after they were banned for their facial hair.
Both students attend the private Mount Carmel Roman Catholic high school in Accrington, Lancashire, but were banned from attending because of their beards, which go against the school’s uniform policy.
The head teacher at the school later decided to let one of the students return, citing the European Convention of Human Rights, which includes exceptions to uniform and dress codes on the grounds of religious observance.
So long as the two students prove their dedication to Islam, they’ll be able to continue wearing facial hair at the school.
“[There] will be no change to the school rule which requires boys to be clean shaven. However, following discussions with leaders of the local community, exemptions will be made in certain clearly-defined circumstances. Governors have taken the decision to only allow Muslim boys permission to grow a beard as a sign of their faith as long as they have started the Hafiz program at a mosque,” the head teacher said.
Opposing Views notes that the later statement is a stark 180 from the previous suspension notice, in which the school said that the facial hair had nothing to do with the boys’ Muslim faith.
“We have not taken this decision lightly,” the original statement held, “I have spent quite a lot of time researching the issue and speaking to Muslim elders. There is nothing specifically written in the Koran about wearing a beard. It is a choice those boys are making. However inclusive we are, we have standards to maintain.”
After facing harsh criticism over the decision, observers believe that the school decided to make an exception for the boys’ Muslim faith. The National Union of Students’ black students were particularly vociferous in reaction to the decision.
“The NUS Black Students’ Campaign is totally opposed to the victimization of anyone for pursuing their rights to religious and cultural expression. We call on Mount Carmel Roman Catholic High School to end this draconian practice.”
The exception, meanwhile, has been praised.
The Lancashire county councillor for Accrington said: “I’m very glad that we are moving in the right direction and I’d like to thank the head teacher and governors for their understanding and co-operation.”
One of the two banned students has yet to return for unknown reasons.