WATCH: Teachers condemn 'Islamophobic' hijab comments from Ofsted chief inspector

NUT delegates unanimously pass motion warning Amanda Spielman's comments could lead to increased physical and verbal attacks on Muslim women and girls

Martin George

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NUT delegates have unanimously condemned “Islamophobic” comments from Ofsted’s chief inspector about young girls wearing the hijab in primary schools.

In November Ms Spielman said her inspectors would speak to young girls wearing hijabs in primary schools to “ascertain why they do so in school”. 

She also publicly supported the head of an east London primary school which banned the hijab for younger pupils. The ban was later removed following concern from the local community, but the school received official backing from Ofsted.

A motion passed by NUT delegates this morning warned that the comments risk provoking physical attacks on Muslim women and girls.

Kauser Jan of Leeds described Ms Spielman’s policy as “Islamophobic” and said her message to the chief inspector was “we are not going to take it”.

She added: “We have taken regressive steps where our children are now being made to feel that must leave their cultural and linguistic and religious identity at the door.

“I know Muslim girls and men that have shaved off beards, taken off their hijabs so they can anglicise themselves, so they can fit in and not feel they are part of the problem.”

Mehreen Begg, from Croydon, who described herself as a British Muslim with first-hand experience of racism and Islamophobia, said the motion “provides strong opposition to Ofsted’s unwarranted and typically draconian stance on the wearing of hijabs in primary schools.

“It is wholly inappropriate for Ofsted inspectors to question primary-age Muslim girls on their choice of dress.

“This is an act of intimidation by a powerful adult on a young child and has no place in our education inspection system.

“Whilst wearing a hijab may not always be a choice, both here and internationally, it is not for Ofsted to intervene in this debate, which is a debate within the Islamic community.”

And Jess Edwards, of the NUT executive, said Ms Spielman had “betrayed the parents who rolled back the hijab ban in that Newham school and portrayed them as being radicalised extremists”.

Ofsted has previously described the motion as “disappointing”.

On Friday, a spokesperson said: “There’s nothing political about ensuring that schools and parents aren’t being subject to undue pressure by national or community campaign groups. 

“Headteachers need to be able to take uniform decisions on the basis of safeguarding or community cohesion concerns, and Ofsted will always support them in doing that.”Delegates also condemned proposals to hold a ‘Punish a Muslim day’ on Tuesday, and expressed “solidarity to all Muslims and communities affected.

Latifa Abouchakra, for Ealing, said: “I say shame on Ofsted for victimising young girls for choosing to wear religious items of clothing. There is no such measure made for other religions or other articles of religious wear.

“This stance has other ramifications. It signals to the British public, and emboldens groups such as EDL, BNP and other racist groups, that women are oppressed by Islam.

“We are an easy target. This decision by Ofsted has ramifications beyond the school gate and must be seen in the context of increased attacks on the Muslim community, and perpetuates the outdated notion that Muslim women are victims.

“I was on a trip last year to Hampton Court with my year 7s, where a man felt comfortable to call me a terrorist.”

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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