Cambodia allows Hijab at schools

IINA – Cambodia allows Hijab at schools

Cambodian Muslim students will be allowed to wear Islamic attire, including Hijab, as of the new academic year in October. “While students are supposed to wear white shirts and blue trousers to school, Khmer Muslim students will be allowed to wear traditional uniforms to school because we are open minded about students believing in different religions,” the Phnom Penh Post daily reported yesterday quoting Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth Chey Chap. Two months ago, Prime Minister Hun Sen pledged to allow Muslim students to wear their Islamic attire at schools.

The decision will be effective when the new academic year starts in October. Previously, Muslim students, both boys and girls, had to abide by a standard uniform determined by their schools, usually comprises a shirt and a pair of trousers. This had forced many Muslim students, particularly girls, to abandon their studies. Some schools were bending the rules to allow female Muslim students to don headgear. “At the moment Khmer Muslim students don’t wear their traditional clothes at school, but they still wear folded scarves around their faces,” said Dy Tep Kosal, the director of Chea Sim Cham Reun Roth Secondary School, where Muslims make up nearly 40 percent of its students. Hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women.

The government decision drew cheering from Cambodian Muslims. “This shows that the government doesn’t want to discriminate against Muslim students and will show people that there are a lot of Khmer Muslims within the education system,” said Zakaryya Adam, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Cults and Religion. Abdulhalim Kasim, a Muslim student at Norton University, said the decision comes in the right time for female Muslim students. “While it doesn’t make any difference to me because I am a man and can wear whatever Khmer students wear, girls need to wear scarves over their faces,” he said.

Kasim said the decision also has broader implications. “The fact that the government will allow us to wear our traditional clothes means it accepts all religions (and) it will make it easier for Khmer Muslims to study.” There are estimated 700,000 Muslims in Cambodia, making up five percent of the country’s 13 million population. Cambodian Muslims are generally located in towns and rural fishing villages on the banks of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers and in Kampot Province in the south.

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