Experts: Ban on wearing hijab at Kazakh schools may antagonize among religious population

Politics Materials 2 September 2010 18:59 (UTC +04:00)
The ban on wearing Muslim religious headscarf hijab at Kazakh schools may antagonize the religious sections of the population, experts said.

Azerbaijan, Baku, September 2 / Trend V. Zhavoronkova /

The ban on wearing Muslim religious headscarf hijab at Kazakh schools may antagonize the religious sections of the population, experts said.

"The ban on wearing hijab at schools, sooner or later may lead to serious religious problems within the country. Perhaps, it will not happen now, because, , for example, as opposed to Turkey, religion entered the lives of Kazakh people ", Turkish expert on the protection of Muslim women's rights Elif Kosharoglu told Trend over phone from Ankara.

Kazakh Minister of Education Zhanseit Tuymebaev said on the eve of the new academic year that the ministry is against the wearing of the hijab at schools.

"We are categorically against the hijab at Kazakh schools. There are several reasons," he said.

He mentioned the fact that the clothing that covers almost the entire face is not inherent in the traditions of the Kazakh people. He said that a precedent would be created in case of permission.

"Today there are over 140 ethnic groups in Kazakhstan. If we allow wearing the hijab, then members of different nationalities will demand to permit them to wear their national dress," minister said.

Similar decisions for the last 10 years have been adopted in several European countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands and France. However, as opposed to them, the state religion in Kazakhstan is Islam but not Christianity, as in most European countries.

Kazakhstan raised the issue previously. Speaking of the ban on wearing hijab at schools, Education Minister cited an excerpt from the third provision of the law "Education" as an argument. According to it, the activities of religious organizations in educational institutions is prohibited. The same law in Article 43 stated that the competence of educational institutions include the question of school uniforms for students.

However, earlier Kazakh Minister of Justice Rashid Tusupbekov answering a similar question in his online blog, wrote that the legislation of Kazakhstan does not prohibit the wearing of the hijab at schools. In this case Tusupbekov referred to the provisions of the Constitution and the law "Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations".

Experts believe that such a ban would entail a number of negative consequences. The main one is possible discontent of religious strata of Kazakhstan.

Mazlumder organization Turkish human rights activist Kosharoglu said that such a ban in Turkey, where the state religion is Islam, shattered society. Such situation is not excluded in Kazakhstan.

Iranian expert on Russia and Central Asia Bahram Amirahmadian said that a ban on wearing the hijab at schools can lead to serious differences in society.

"Such an attitude to this issue can make a disturbance in the relationship between groups of people living in Kazakhstan, " he told Trend over phone from Tehran.

However, Kazakhstan's expert Dosim Satpayev said that a certain part of the Kazakh population is a passive protest against the decision to ban. But it will not lead to active actions or meetings.

"Kazakhs in terms of religious orientation consider themselves Muslims. Over 70 percent of the population refer to Islam. Islam is not alien religion, the risk assessment group director, a member of the expert council Satpayev told Trend. But on the other hand, the Kazakhs are less radical than other peoples of Central Asia, " he said.

The decision to ban hijab at schools can be regarded as an infringement on the rights of Muslim women, experts said. The official reason that Kazakhstan - a secular state is unconvincing.

"Neither Islamic nor secular state should infringe upon human rights, no matter what religion it may profess. Everyone has the right to choose what to dress," Kosharoglu said.

She said that true secular regime implies the equality of believers, regardless of their religious affiliation.

Iranian expert Amirahmadian said that one should stop not only wearing the hijab, but the facts of agitation at schools, if they occur.

The risk assessment group director Satpayev said that the position of the Ministry of Education, expressed by Minister, does not contradict certain norms of the Constitution concerning the fact that our state is secular. But at the same time, it is contrary to the Declaration of Human Rights, which Kazakhstan declared.

"Judicial precedent must be created in Kazakhstan to resolve this conflict. For example, a student girl, who thinks that she has the right to wear a headscarf at university, or school, will bring an action in the court of first instance to assert her rights. If she is not agree with the decision of the court, she may apply to the higher court, " he said.

After all this legal chain, the matter may be reviewed at the Constitutional Council. It must give a definitive answer to such a relevant and exciting question, the expert said.

He said that the overall state trend in Kazakhstan will be clearly seen.

R. Hafizoglu, T. Jafarov contributed to the article.