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Neena Lall is a public servant who has devoted her professional life to enhancing the life chances of some of the most marginalised children in Britain: 70 per cent of her 800 children at St Stephen’s primary school in Newham, east London, are Muslim, some from very underprivileged backgrounds, many born to parents whose education and grasp of English is limited. What turned this Muslim community against the school that had done so much for its disadvantaged children is partly a consequence of years of being conditioned to believe the British state is intrinsically Islamophobic.

In January the Sunday Times reported that Lall had banned the hijab and fasting to help her Muslim pupils integrate into modern British society. It quoted her saying that when asked to raise their hands if they thought they were British “very few children” did. The report said St Stephen’s had “called on the government to take a firm stand on hijabs and fasting”.

Lall insists — and those present confirm — that she commented on integration quite separately from her ban on hijab and fasting. However, the way a video of her interview was edited linked them seamlessly. “They are not my words,” she says.

An online volcano erupted. There was fury at the implication that the hijab was incompatible with being British. The embers were still smouldering from comments two months earlier by the Chief Inspector of Schools that the hijab might sexualise young children. Hafsah Dabiri, a presenter with the Islam Channel, popular with British Muslims, weighed in with an intemperate and near hysterical petition #Leaveourhijab: “We cannot and will not stand for this . . . to Neena Lall, we say Leave our Hijab! . . . It’s not a request or a plea, it’s demand.” With its half-hourly mantra “voice for the voiceless”, the channel has done much to embed a victim mentality into British Muslims.

Dabiri was joined by Mend, which issued this statement: “Mend is extremely concerned with these developments and has been in touch with both the school and Muslim parents.” It signed off with all the portentousness of a 10 Downing Street bulletin during a national crisis: “We will be issuing an update on the situation shortly.”

Mend resurrected Spielman’s previous concerns about the hijab, now accusing her of having caused “grave distress throughout British Muslim communities” with “potentially . . . severe repercussions impacting the rights and wellbeing of Muslim children and parents”. Meetings were held in the nearby Plashet Grove mosque with the young imam, Abdul Wahab. Meanwhile, Mend volunteers were on the ground “working with the parents” angry at the ban. Why so much anger with a school prized as a community crown jewel and the ban introduced just fourth months earlier with barely a peep?

A statement was signed by ten Newham councillors led by two pro-Mend brothers, one of whom was a trustee of the mosque. It accused Lall of having “unilaterally intervene(d) in matters of faith without the full consultation of parents”. Really?
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amcdonald
May 17th, 2018
7:05 PM
Iftikhar Ahmad`s comment is a perfect example of unreasoning.

Anon
May 13th, 2018
7:05 PM
Why does the government not support the more liberal British Muslims in this noble cause?

Iftikhar Ahmad
May 5th, 2018
7:05 PM
Hijab Why is it that we always have these conversations about girls? I never read articles about what boys should or should not wear. I have never read articles about what boys should be allowed to do, only girls. Maybe that is more the issue. Why? It would only be a good idea if you planned to make the families feel so unwelcome that they end up removing their children to be educated at home. But don't then be surprised at the number of home educated Muslim children rising. Maybe that's the overall agenda to make Muslims as outcasts? Muslim girls who wear the hijab to primary school will be asked why they wear it by inspectors. The reasons given will then be recorded in school reports, amid concerns girls are being forced to wear the headscarf by their parents. Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, announced the move on Sunday. This is none of Ofsted's business. In fact it is discrimination. Ofsted should be instructed to back off. Can you please focus on the primary children/girls who are dressed like grown women with short skirts and such which would be deemed as sexualisation of girls. And is this about sexualisition Ms Spielamn or Fundamentalism? I think your a little confused and need to make up your mind because I would say its about Islamophobia. Imagine being questioned about why you dress the way your parents tell you at 8 years of age!? What do you say? “Sorry, I’ll tell them they are wrong”? Looks like Ofsted are now so busy with combating Islam that they will have no time to deal with education? The problem is, before they start the quizzing, they're making public exactly what the girls should get prepared to reply (by their family) to be allowed to keep the hijab. With all the time to rehearse. Any child asked by an inspector why she’s covering her hair should reply.. 'its a free country I can wear what I effing want''!! We do not need inspectors chasing Muslims just because we hate them. Looks like Ofsted are now so busy with combating Islam that they will have no time to deal with education? What is the role of the Government can any of the hijab haters answer This? Or do we need another PREVENT policy to target certain group of people? I bet all the readers who have kids have forced their kids to go to sleep, brush their teeth, wake them out of bed, eat dinner etc, wear a helmet whilst riding bike and so on...So what is wrong with telling your kid to cover the head to if one wants to. There is nothing wrong with this as long as its achieved peacefully and through education. Of course they are forced or at least required to wear hijabs by parents because it is the parents who bring up children according to their tradition, religion or both. Freedom of religion is imperial . One can choose what to believe in an practise it , it' not the government' job to dictate what you should eat, how you should dress ,when you should pray ..it only has the power to coerce it' civilians but it should just focusing on providing services and infrastructure and education and so on. So they need to send inspectors instead of assuming that it's the parents brainwashing the kids. Interesting. Maybe they expect to find some 7 years old girls who will give them a detailed report of all the faiths they thoroughly researched before choosing Islam because it's the one they believe provides the answers to all their existential and philosophical questions. Parents are free to teach their children what they want as long as it' not harming them physically or mentally. Its called education not force. I guess every parent has the right to educate their child into doing something which they believe is good (as long as its not a crime etc). It's the parents that they should be questioning, not the children. No good asking the girls. If they are made to wear it, they will be made to say they aren’t, since that’s what the Inspectors want to hear. Everybody knows who the Inspectors spoke to. How nice of them. Huge swathes of children in Birmingham leave school without 5 GCSE but that doesn't seem to concern Ofsted too much. In fact they label schools Outstanding when they cannot even get half their pupils to this benchmark! We, as parents want to raise our girls. It is our responsibility, no one else's , even Ofsted. Ofsted should be looking at the reasons why children &young people are suffering an epidemic of mental illness, clue: it’s not because they lack resilience. Instead they are joining in with the rights obsession over what women and girl wear and bashing Muslims

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