LONDON- The school is in talks with the two boys' families and the Council of Lancashire Mosques in an attempt to resolve the issue.
LONDON– The school is in talks with the two boys’ families and the Council of Lancashire Mosques in an attempt to resolve the issue.
Two 14 year-old Muslim boys have been barred from classes and placed in isolation after refusing to shave their beards.
Both boys were placed in “isolation” at the start of the new term at Mount Carmel Roman Catholic High School in Accrington, UK.
According to the school, beards are banned under school guidelines which also prohibit false nails, fake tans and inappropriate jewellery.
The families of the boys, who have not been named, claim the pupils are being discriminated against because their religion forbids shaving beards as it is a symbol of faith.
Schools in the UK are allowed to have their own guidelines for school dress and appearance. Head teacher Xavier Bowers insisted the decision was not a religious issue.
In a statement issued by the Lancashire County Council, Bowers wrote: “I am fully aware of the sensitive nature of this issue and have done my very best to be as understanding and reasonable as possible when dealing with situations of this nature.
“When necessary, we place pupils in our learning support centre who do not comply with our school policy regarding uniform and appearance”.
“Here at Mount Carmel RC High School, we believe that it’s important to maintain high standards in every aspect of school life, including appearance and uniform.”
According to the 2012 Office of Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) report, 750 students are from an ethnic minority, primarily of Pakistani background.
A relative of one of the students told a local paper the decision was “pure discrimination.” Asking not to be named, the relative said: “Because these boys cannot shave their beards for religious reasons, they are being put in isolation for six-and-a-half hours every day.
They are not being allowed to mix with anybody or speak to friends. It is pure discrimination. They chose that school because it is within their area and has good results. The school has to have an open policy and they have to take in people from all religions.”
Bowers said the rule had been in place for a while, but he had previously allowed the two boys to keep their beards because they had grown it shortly before their exams. Bower said, “I felt it was an unfair pressure to put on them and I agreed to an exception.”
He explained that he had told “a number of other Asian boys who were also sporting beards” that there would no longer be an exception, after which all but two shaved their beards.
“These boys were given the option to do that and chose not to.”
There is a difference of opinion amongst Muslim scholars regarding the religious significance of the beard.
The school is in talks with the two boys’ families and the Council of Lancashire Mosques in an attempt to resolve the issue.