School violating rights of pupils

I am writing to share my views concerning an incident that was reported in a local newspaper which I deem to be discrimination or at least some level of injustice. On Wednesday, it was reported that 30 male Form Six pupils —Muslims included—from Trinity College East were sent home because of the presence of facial hair. The report said the head of Form Six ordered them to have clean-shaven faces and had warned them numerous times previously although it is not an official school law. Unfortunately, with their non-compliance, the issue came to a head, and they were given official letters to take home to their parents and a boot out of the school gates.

I want to mention now a few important points for everyone to remember and consider since the more we learn about each others' creed and culture, the more understanding and harmony there will be between us:

1. Very simply put, the Qur'an is not the only source from which Islamic laws are derived. Laws are also derived from the sayings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). His example essentially shows the practical application of the Qur'an. Whether or not some imams follow the injunction of growing the beard (which is not explicitly stated in the Qur'an), it is nonetheless very significant and considered an act of worship. In fact, there is Islamic scholarly consensus that growing the beard is an obligation. The ignorance of some imams concerning this fact is irrelevant. Another little factoid: the Prophet Muhammad grew his beard and ordered his followers to do likewise.

2. We should come to the realisation that what a religion demands is not ascertained by looking at the practices and traditions of its clergy, and this provides no justification in forcing adherents of the faith to act as their clergy do. This applies and holds true for all religions.

3. I advise these students to familiarise themselves with the Equal Opportunity Act (EOA) 2000, and if they wish to pursue this, they should lodge a formal complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) on their website. In relevance to this particular issue, the EOA prohibits an educational establishment from discriminating against a person or student by "expelling the student or subjecting the student to any other detriment".

For example, removing facial hair, which only occurs naturally, can well be an instance of religious discrimination. The EOA states: "Discrimination on the grounds of a person's religion is prohibited and occurs where a person of a particular religion is treated less favourably than another person of a different religion in circumstances that are same or not materially different."

What is worrisome is the removal of facial hair, according to the head of Form Six, is self-admittedly not part of the official school rules. Does this mean any rule, real or imagined, can be invoked at the whims and fancies of the authorities, even though it may clearly violate the rights of some pupils? This doesn't seem fair in the least and is cause for great concern with respect to the management and reputation of this school.

Talib Mohammed

El Socorro

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