The Kerala state government is conducting a probe at a Catholic school following a controversy over the wearing of headscarves in class.
The Directorate of Public Instruction of Kerala ordered the inquiry at St. Philomena’s Girls’ School on June 4, after receiving complaints from Muslim parents.
The dispute arose after a class teacher singled out two scarf-wearing girls, reportedly for disobedience. But the girls complain that they were being punished for wearing the headscarf.
Some Muslim parents have called on the school’s authorities to confirm that headscarves are permitted, while others have said that only regulation school uniform should be allowed.
The authorities, in turn, have requested police protection around the school in Poonthura, a Muslim-dominated coastal village. The area has witnessed serious Christian-Muslim clashes in the recent past; 11 Muslims were killed when police fired on rioters in May 2009.
The row was described as “unfortunate” by Sister Mercy Thomas, the principal, who said that while the headscarf is not part of the uniform, the school adopts a neutral stance. “We neither discourage nor encourage it,” she said.
She added that around 60 percent of the school’s students are Muslim and it has never faced controversy in its 58-year history.
In a similar incident in Kerala last month, a Protestant school suspended its principal who had dismissed a Muslim girl for wearing a headscarf.