A news report gaining traction on social media about a girl being banned from attending classes for wearing hijab in Qatar has inflamed residents, with many calling for the government to take action against the offending school.
But officials at Compass International School Doha maintain that no such ban took place.
“She was not excluded,” Donna Brackstone-Drake, principal of the Madinat Khalifa branch, told Doha News about the 11-year-old Egyptian girl in question.
CIS, which has pictures on its website of both teachers and students in hijab, follows a British curriculum and has enrolled students from 60 different nationalities, she said.
Initial media reports stated that the Supreme Education Council intervened after a family friend posted on Twitter that the girl was banned from school for wearing hijab.
“[But] this is not what happened,” another school employee told Doha News. “We cannot stop any students from coming to our school. I know the girl and the father – they were not upset, they said it’s fine,” said the employee, who also wears hijab.
Here’s what happened according to Principal Brackstone-Drake:
As the student was starting secondary school, the girl’s father spoke to the principal and insisted that she wear hijab, or he would find her another school. Administrators then followed up with the student to see if that’s what she wanted.
“Her teacher asked, ‘Why are you wearing the hijab?’ We weren’t certain whether it was appropriate for young girls,” Brackstone-Drake said.
When the girl replied that she wanted to wear the headscarf, the matter appeared to be resolved. The principal then followed up with the father to confirm that the school had no issue with her decision.
The next day, the school was approached by the SEC, bringing to light that the matter had been misconstrued.
That prompted the principal to send an email to staff on all three campuses, affirming that students were allowed to wear hijab as long as they were in the school uniform colors – yellow or white for primary school, and black or blue for secondary school.
“Our host country is a Muslim country,” Brackstone-Drake added. “We would not disrespect the hijab.”
UPDATE | 5:11pm
Robin Campbell, the head of the three Compass International Schools in Qatar, says an inquiry has been launched to get to the bottom of the incident.
In a statement sent to Doha News this evening, he said:
Compass International School, Doha apologies for any distress this story may have caused. As a long standing school in the community we place very high value on the traditions, culture and beliefs of our host country Qatar, the region and Islam.
Campbell added that “appropriate actions will be taken pending the outcome” of the school’s investigation.
Here’s his full statement:
Credit: Photo courtesy of De Boer