After the hijab (which is allowed just about everywhere but France and Turkey) and the jilbab (permitted in Great Britain) gain access to the public school classroom, the next frontier is the niqab, a loose-fitting garment Muslim women wear that covers the entire face except for a slit around the eyes. This entry will occasionally document its pedagogic career.
United Kingdom: I look at a British case in "How the Niqab Will Enter British Schools." (January 22, 2007)
United Kingdom: In the aftermath of 7/7 and being fingered as a university which had harbored terrorists, Imperial College London has implemented various security measures, such as requiring that identity cards be worn and a ban on face coverings. To be precise, the latter regulation reads: "Clothing that obscures an individual's face is not allowed on any of the college's campuses. Employees and students should refrain from wearing clothing which obscures the face, such as a full or half veil, or hooded tops or scarves worn across the face." In case this regulations is breached, writes the Daily Mail, "Guards have been ordered to challenge ‘unrecognisable individuals' and remove them from campus." However, the university will "sympathetically consider" any complaints when the rules conflict with religious beliefs.
Predictably enough, Islamists claim this ban on niqabs constitutes an attack on their personal freedom. Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain responded: "We hope the university would work out some sort of arrangement so if a student does believe part of their faith requirement is to wear one they can continue with their studies. In today's world we understand there has to be security, but measures should not be so drastic as to prevent Muslim women taking up higher education, especially as they are being encouraged to do so." (November 24, 2005)
Norway: The minister of knowledge, Øystein Djupedal, a member of the Socialist Left Party, supports the ban on niqabs in Oslo schools that a school councilor, Torger Ødegaard, plans to propose. "Using a veil over the face during classes makes education more difficult. I respect religious garments, but in an educational situation teaching is most important," Djupedal explained. He does not envision national legislation forbidding the niqab, but prefers that counties and municipalities make these decisions at the local level. (October 26, 2005)
Canada: Champlain College in Quebec has permitted the niqab, after the local Collège d'Enseignement Général et Professionnel academic council – a consultative body that debates academic issues – rejected a Champlain teacher's request to for a legal opinion banning the garment. Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, was pleased: "I am very glad to hear it. The fact these girls are fighting for it indicates they are deeply committed to their religion." (October 24, 2005)