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Widespread condemnation of act

Published: 
Thursday, May 24, 2018

Rosemarie Sant

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar is urging the board of Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College to reconsider their decision to deny OJT Nafisah Nakhid the opportunity to train there and she is also calling on the Education Minister and Attorney General to move swiftly to have this matter resolved.

Persad-Bissessar said yesterday that the matter is “not a political one” but rather was one of “natural justice, equality and fairness”.

Responding to public concerns about the decision by the Maha Sahba to prevent Nakhid from taking up a job because she was wearing a hijab, Persad-Bissessar said while she agrees that a dress code is appropriate at schools, “the reality is a hijab cannot be classed in the same category as hats, capes, sleeveless dress or see-through mini-skirts”. (See letters on Pages A20 & A21)

A hijab, she said, is “sacred wear for Muslim women and they should be free to wear such without let or hinder.”

She said the “hurt that Ms Nakhid and her family must feel is understandable. Equally hurtful would be if a Hindu person were to be barred from wearing a Raksha or a Christian person barred from wearing a cross.”

Persad-Bissessar said what is “highly commendable” is that Nakhid had chosen to follow a God-fearing and diligent path in life, which she shows by her commitment to wearing her hijab.

This, she said, “is especially important, as today in our country we see widespread crimes being committed by people who seem to have no care for the rule of law or love of God and fellow men.”

She said as a woman leader, it was her “responsibility to seek especially the interest of women and girls and to do my duty without fear or favour and with love regardless of ethnicity, religion or social status.”

The Organisation Muslims of Trinidad and Tobago also stood by Nakhid for showing religious maturity and that Muslims can integrate successfully in any school or society.

PRO Imtiaz Mohammed issued a statement saying, “The wearing of the hijab is compulsory for all female Muslims once they attain puberty as stated in the Quran.”

He said it was “unfortunate that this specific school board chose to exercise religious intolerance resulting in religious discrimination, clearly violating our Constitution.”

He said they strongly condemned the action of the school board and statements by Maha Sabha secretary general Sat Maharaj that Islamic schools deny Hindu children their religious right to wear the ticker on their foreheads or the Raksha on their wrist. Those statements, he said, are “misleading.”

Mohammed said while Maharaj said his school has a dress code for persons and parents entering the school compound, “the hijab is only an additional garment that would complement his dress code, resulting in the same modesty and respect that his schools are striving to achieve.”

The Centre for Indic Studies, headed by Dr Arvind Singh and Aneela Bhagwat, also said in a Facebook release that the refusal of the Maha Sabha to allow Nakhid entry to the assigned school due to her headdress is “disappointing and indeed shameful” for any organisation which calls itself Hindu “and more so for one that purports to be the voice of Hindu Trinidad and Tobago”. It said, “one cannot be a bigot and still have the audacity to call oneself a Hindu”.

The spiritual head of the Satya Anand Ashram, Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, meanwhile said it was sad that in Indian Heritage Month, where we reflect on “our Hindu, Muslim and Christian indentured ancestors, that a Hindu leader would seek to discriminate against a Muslim”.

He said the Maha Sabha does not represent all Hindus and the leadership of the Maha Sabha is “not only a throwback to a bygone era but a source of never-ending shame and embarrassment for a large cross-section of the Hindu community.”

Maharaj said to carry out “this act of denial to a young Muslim girl wishing only to learn how to teach is simply not acceptable in modern Trinidad and Tobago,” adding “this has the makings of a religious war, further dividing our already fragile society.”

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