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Muslim girl told to remove head scarf

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Muslim girl told to remove head scarf


Monterey, California, (The Herald):


A confrontation over a head scarf in the lunchroom of Seaside High School between a school supervisor and a 13-year-old student has led for a call for a public apology from the official by a major Islamic organization.

The San Francisco/Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, known as CAIR, said the girl, an incoming freshman, was told by the supervisor Tuesday to remove her hajib, an Islamic head scarf.

After explaining that she wore it for religious reasons, the supervisor, according to the CAIR statement, then demanded in front of more than 100 other students, "You have to take it off now."

The girl, who was taking a summer algebra class, then broke down in tears, said CAIR, but did not remove her scarf.

CAIR and Seaside High both declined to identify the girl's family.

School officials said the supervisor has offered to apologize.

"The employee involved did offer an apology on the day of the event," said Sydney Renwick, Seaside High principal. "We offered to make a personal one, because of the situation."

But Safaa Ibrahim, CAIR's chapter executive director, said in a statement that "because the student was humiliated in public, it is only reasonable to make an apology or statement in public to mitigate the damage caused by the supervisor's unacceptable actions."

Renwick is site director for the summer school. The name of the summer principal was not available late Thursday.

Abiya Ahmed, media relations coordinator for CAIR, said the family wanted a public apology. Attempts to contact the family for comment were unsuccessful. She said a letter was sent to the principal Wednesday with a request.

"We think it's important to bring to the attention of the public that such an incident happened," Ahmed said.

Ibrahim called it "a gross violation of authority to demand that a student violate his or her religious principles in order to receive an education."

Renwick said the school does have a policy against the wearing of hats, scarves and other head gear, but that perhaps it should be enforced with some flexibility.

"You can't have a specific policy that covers every instance," Renwick said. "Every policy has to be general to convey what the intent is."

Renwick said an investigation was completed Wednesday, and that the information has been sent to Robert Costa, personnel director for Monterey Peninsula Unified. Superintendent Marilyn Shepherd and Costa could not be reached late Thursday.

"We're treating this as an isolated incident," Renwick said. "It should not be construed in any way, shape or form as something other than that.

"It is difficult for everybody," Renwick added. "It has a lot of sensitivity around it."

News of the incident spread quickly through the local Muslim community. Munir Khlidy, a retired Monterey Peninsula College instructor, said there are about 3,000 Muslims living around the Salinas, Castroville and Seaside areas.

"If I was a lawyer I'd sue him for assaulting a young girl," said Khlidy. "I think such a thing should not be taking place."

Ahmed said CAIR offered to conduct sensitivity training for the school. The organization publishes a booklet called "An Educator's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices."

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