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UK: Muslims banned from classroom for refusing to shave beards
Two 14-year-olds claim religion forbids them to shave, punished for violating dress code. Relatives call discrimination, principal insists 'Koran doesn't require beards'

Two teenage Muslim pupils have been put into 'isolation' and banned from lessons after refusing to shave off their beards for religious reasons, the Daily Mail reported.

 

Mount Carmel Roman Catholic High School, in Accrington, Lancashire, said the two 14-year-olds were in breach of the dress code, which bans beards as well as false nails, fake tan, make-up, dyed hair and inappropriate jewellery.

 

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But the boys' families have said they were suffering discrimination because beards are a symbol of faith and their religion forbids them to shave.

 

According to the report, the school has said after conducting its own research it has concluded they are not required by the Koran to wear beards, and are making a choice to do so. The school remained adamant they will not be allowed to go back until the matter was resolved.

 

Around a third of the 750 pupils at Mount Carmel are from ethnic minorities, mostly Pakistani, according to the 2012 Ofsted report.

 

Xavier Bowers, head teacher at the school, said governors had decided no exceptions could be made to the uniform policy.

 

But a relative of one of the boys told the Daily Mail: "Because these boys cannot shave their beards for religious reasons, they are being put in isolation for six-and-a-half hours every day.

 

"They are not being allowed to mix with anybody or speak to friends. It is pure discrimination.

 

"They chose that school because it is within their area and has good results. The school has to have an open policy and they have to take in people from all religions."

 

Bowers said the rule had been in place for a while, but was strictly enforced from the beginning of the new term, after letters explaining there would be no exceptions were sent out.

 

"Children who turn up to school with red hair, inappropriate jewellery, false tan or make-up are isolated in a room until the matter is addressed and then they return to their normal day.

 

'"These boys were given the option to do that and chose not to."

 

The issue of whether beards are compulsory for devout Muslims is open to interpretation, according to Professor Muhammad Abdel Haleem, of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

 

He said the Prophet Muhammad was believed to have had a beard and that men insisting on doing the same claimed they were emulating his actions.

 

Bowers said the issue was not one of religion, but of upholding school rules.

 

He said: "We have not taken this decision lightly. I have spent quite a lot of time researching the issue and speaking to Muslim elders.

 

"There is nothing specifically written in the Koran about wearing a beard. It is a choice those boys are making. However inclusive we are, we have standards to maintain."

 

Abdul Hamid Quereshi, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said: "The headteacher is co-operating and the school wants to learn about the issue and address them appropriately.

 

"Different people have different variations of understanding.

 

"Some are newly interacting with the Muslim community and it is our duty not to put people in awkward positions."

 

 

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