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Prague students support teacher sued for banning hijab in class

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Prague, Nov 2 (CTK) – Tens of female students from a Prague secondary nursing school on Wednesday gathered outside a courtroom to support their head teacher who was sued by a former Muslim student from Somalia banned from wearing the Muslim veil covering her head and neck (hijab) during classes.

“We came to support our head teacher. This is absolute nonsense. Our school has set rules and she violated them,” one of the students told CTK about the former Muslim student.

Another girl said all students should respect the same rules, without any exceptions.

The court started dealing with the case on Wednesday. The former Muslim student demands an apology and financial compensation of 60,000 crowns for being indirectly discriminated in her access to education and free choice of profession. She did not come to court, allegedly being afraid of the negative atmosphere. The school says the complaint is untrue and misleading.

Supporters of Islam arrived as well and the proceedings had to be moved to the largest courtroom.

A girl wearing a head scarf said she believed everybody should be allowed to decide on their own whether their heads are covered or not. She said she knew neither the Muslim student nor the nursing school.

The opponents of Islam who were present in court called on the girl to take off her scarf because it offended them.

Two Muslim girls, one from Somalia and the other from Afghanistan, left the nursing school in 2013, allegedly due to the ban on hijab.

Ombudsman Anna Sabatova supported the girls then and said the school discriminated against them indirectly.

The school argued that students must not have their heads covered in the classroom. Sabatova demanded that the school rules be changed as the hijab is a religious symbol. The school did not change the rules, but it gave the school director the right to grant exceptions for religious reasons.

This dispute provoked discussions about whether to let Muslim women wear coverings such as the hijab, niqab or even the burka in the Czech Republic.

Deputy Ombudsman Stanislav Krecek was among those who came to court yesterday. Unlike Sabatova, Krecek said Muslim women should not be allowed to wear coverings at schools and medical facilities.

Radka Korbelova Dohnalova, the Somali girl’s lawyer, said her client was granted asylum in the Czech Republic in 2011. She said the girl left her homeland because she did want to marry a member of the armed militia and because she was in a bad position as a single mother.

The girl claims that the school management agreed that she would not wear hijab when she worked as a nurse but only in the classroom. Nobody told her she would be banned from wearing a head scarf at school, she claims.

According to the lawyer, on the first day of school, the girl was summoned to the head teacher’s office and ordered to take off the scarf, which she refused to do. The head teacher refused a compromise that the Muslim girl offered, or that she would only cover her neck. The girl was forced to confirm in writing that she ends her study at the school, Korbelova Dohnalova said.

The school tells a different story: the Somali girl ended her study on her own because she did not submit the required documents. The school blames Sabatova for triggering a hysteria around the case.

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