Spanish students protest Muslim veil

politics | Nov 12, 2009 | By Martin Barillas

Spanish school authorities in Lerida, a city of the Catalonian region near Barcelona, shut down a planned protest by students at a local high school on November 11 who wanted to wear helmets to class as a sign of protest. Two fellow students, both of whom are Muslim girls, were allowed to wear the hijab or Muslim veil, even while non-Muslim students were barred from wearing caps or hats. The planned protest spread like wildfire via FaceBook but a student at the school notified authorities, frustrating the protest.

School authorities caught several non-Muslim students who were already wearing helmets or caps, forcing them to desist. The student instigators were forced to attend a counseling session with school administrators. Sources at the school said that this was a minor incident and that the two Muslim girls are attending class normally and without further opposition. This was the first time Muslim girls wearing the hijab had attended the school.

According to school administrator Juan Ferran of the non-Muslim protesters, “They know that this is a reality that they will have to live with.” They have obeyed now without protest. “We explained to them that even while our internal regulations do not permit a head covering, the Generalitat (provincial government) has established that in education centers we have an obligation to respect religious symbolism.” Besides the two hijab-wearing Muslim girls, there are also four Muslim girls who come to class without veils who were offended by the planned protest. One of them decided to wear a veil as a reaction to the non-Muslim students’ objections. Administrator Ferran was reluctant to identify the protest as xenophobic, attributing it to reasons of "identity."

This is the second such incident in Catalonia. In October 2007, the Generalitat required a school in the town of Gerona to re-admit a 7year-old Muslim girl who had stopping attending because she had been refused permission to wear the veil.

In other hijab hijinks, Muslim women in Spain will not be allowed to wear a veil when photographed for the required National Identity Document. This came as a result of a Royal Decree, issued in October 2009, that modified the law that regulates the granting of the document and electronic signature certificates.


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.