Thursday, September 12, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Hijab Ban Sparks Anger and Radicalization on All Sides

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 12 – Moscow’s ban on the hijab in schools has sparked anger in the Islamic and human rights communities and resistance in Muslim republics like Tatarstan, but its most dangerous consequences are becoming clear now: repressive actions by Russian officials, demands for home schooling among Muslims, and radicalization on both sides.

            On the “Word without Borders” portal yesterday, Yekaterina Trifonova says that the fight over the hijab has taken different forms in different parts of the Russian Federation.  In some, the compromise has been to allow Muslim children to be home schooled, and in others, the hijab has been accepted as part of the uniform (

            But in what she calls “’the historic motherland of conflict,’” Stavropol kray, the situation is “only getting worse” because the local educational establishment “has thought up a new way” to prevent Muslim girls from getting an education, one that is insulting, illegal, unconstitutional, and radicalizing all around.

            School officials there have decreed that Muslim parents who want to home school their children cannot simply do so on their own according to the standard curriculum but rather must hire special teachers to come to provide such instruction, something that puts this possibility beyond the means of most families.
            Elena Sinyayeva, a Stavropol resident, says her family has been having problems ever since it joined an appeal to the Russian Supreme Court about the hijab on May 30.  Her husband was arrested after officials planted drugs on him: he is still in detention and has been physically but not mentally broken.
            Then, because the family no longer could afford to hire a teacher and refused to send their daughter to school without a hijab, the director of the local school threatened to deprive the mother of her parental rights and put the daughter in an orphanage.  The school has refused to comment on this action, Trifonova says.

            In short, she continues, this case has grown into something more than a dispute about hijabs and become a horrific lesson about how the Russian authorities want to deal with anyone who thinks differently. Unfortunately, the threat from the school to take the daughter away from her parents was not the last act of this drama.

            Instead, education officials in Stavropol suggested that if the family didn’t like the way things were in that kray, they should leave, possibly going to Daghestan where wearing the hijab would not be a problem. Some families have done so, but the Sinyayevs are not going to take that step.

            “The leadership of the school said: ‘go to Daghestan.’ But on the basis of what law? My husband and I are Stavropol  natives; this is our home.  What will happen next?”

            In short, as is increasingly the case in the Russian Federation, an unfortunate even illegitimate law adopted in Moscow is being applied by officials and others in ways that are guaranteed to make the situation worse, triggering a spiral of radicalization that is certain to trigger even more problems ahead.

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