Stop Trying To Interfere With My Right To Dress My Daughter In A Hijab

In between the crazy weekend cooking and endless school homework tasks, I have managed to carve a few minutes to write to you because as a parent I am concerned.

I woke this morning to an article in which it was stated that Ofsted inspectors will talk to primary school girls who wear hijabs over concerns that it could be interpreted as “sexualisation of young girls” following a meeting with Muslim women and secular campaigners. How is it possible that an unknown group of women and campaigners are influencing decisions about the wellbeing of my children and questioning my rights as a parent, and allowing inspectors to question my children without my consent?

Although the hijab has been brought under the spotlight again, there is a bigger issue here that needs to be addressed: at which point, if any, does the state have a right to interfere with the way in which I bring up my children?

Being a parent isn’t easy at the best of times. However, the one thing that is for certain is that as a parent I make decisions for my child until they become old enough to have the capacity to do so themselves. The early years of a child’s development are key to their learning and as a parent I want to ensure that they have a positive sense of their identity and culture. But surely this is only possible if they know what being a particular gender or belonging to a religion encapsulates, and for some that may mean wearing a headscarf just as a means of being symbolic of Muslim faith or as is most common just to “copy mum”.

Perhaps a better area to focus on would be the fact that in a recent Panorama documentary there were almost 30,000 reports of child-on-child sexual abuse since 2013, of which a staggering 2,625 took place on school premises. As a parent I want to know what is being done about that rather than seeing schools pushing what can only be seen as an Islamophobic agenda and politicising a piece of religious clothing.

What actual evidence is being used to conclude “the hijab causes the sexualisation of young girls” or is it, as appears to be the case, just the subjective viewpoint of a handful few with a much broader agenda.

School policies in line with British values should allow children to be free to express their faith or any other protected characteristics, and I as a parent should be able to exercise my basic human right as their legal guardian to raise my child as I wish, whether it is to ask the child to wear a headscarf or to baptise them. So long as the child comes to no harm, why is there an issue?

Instead of questioning my parental responsibility, perhaps the liberal compass of society needs recalibrating before we really do lose our way in the name of “secular liberalism”. Please stop telling me what my children need and discriminating against a minority within a minority, and focus on the real issues facing our children today by consulting with those that represent the community.

Dr Siema Iqbal GP

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