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Kosovo Says No to the Headscarf in Public Schools
by Stephen Schwartz
The young Kosovo Republic, with an overwhelming Muslim majority but a tradition of moderate Islam and a secular constitution, has joined Tunisia and France in prohibiting girls attending public schools from wearing the headscarf (hijab). As in Turkey, where the ban on headscarves, instituted in the 1920s, has become a matter for judicial controversy, decisions against the headscarf by local and school authorities have produced a legal case and complaints of discrimination.
For now, headscarves cannot be worn on school property in most of Kosovo. A 16-year-old girl, Arjeta Halimi, from the small town of Viti, which includes Albanian Catholics and Christian Orthodox Serbs, was barred from school in January 2009. She was not been allowed to return, although school authorities will permit her to take her final examinations while in hijab. In the meantime, she is studying at home. She also takes three hours of Islamic religious classes each day.
According to local media, the teenager was ordered by the principal and a security guard at her school to remove the scarf or leave the institution's grounds. She opted for the scarf over the schoolhouse, declaring that she had made the decision to cover her hair after five years of religious instruction. Halimi also said her mother wore a headscarf but that her sisters did not. "They are different," she said. She further asserted that other students were allowed to wear Christian crosses, and that she should therefore be permitted to remain in hijab while at classes.
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