Principal in Australia Transfers Students for Wearing Hijab in School

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By Sounak Mukhopadhyay | May 26, 2014 10:17 AM EST

The principal of an Australian school is under fire after transferring a couple student-teachers for wearing hijab.

REUTERS/Ahmad Masood
A Muslim girl studies at a Madrassa, or religious school, in the Muslim dominated Johapura area in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad March 3, 2014. Narendra Modi's critics depict him as an autocratic Hindu supremacist who would tyrannize the country's minority Muslims if his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power. Modi himself insists he is a moderate who will create a prosperous India for people of all creeds. Picture taken March 3, 2014.

Redlands College Principal Mark Bensley took the step after the girls came to work in a traditional Islamic headwear. Mr Bensley made his point clear in a newsletter which was addressed to the parents. He said that his action of dismissing the teachers was out of a "duty of care," News.com.au reported.

"I have a duty of care to ensure that those teaching at the College are actively supporting the Christian principles, practices and beliefs of the College," Bensley wrote, "I see the wearing of the hijab as openly acting in a manner that is contrary to or inconsistent with these principles, practices and beliefs." Bensley, at the same time, gave an explanation how he had made arrangements for those students so that they could complete their education. "While I respect their desire to wear a hijab, I feel it's inappropriate to do so at Redlands College," he said in the newsletter.

The Sunday Mail published a statement on behalf of the school that said that it "respects and loves all people, from all backgrounds and religions...However we don't hide our Christian values and we provide an important educational option for families seeking Christian education." The statement further said, "We are not aware that they (student teachers) had any concerns, and it is our understanding that all parties came to a mutual agreement for the benefit of all."

Not every parent at the school is apparently happy with the principal's decision to transfer those students. Leading figures in the Muslim community is reportedly "stunned" by the decision. Islamic College of Brisbane principal Mubarak Noor said that it was a matter of concern to him. Redlands authorities, meanwhile, denied that the decision had anything to do with "religious intolerance."

 According to the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Section 25), employers are allowed to follow a "genuine occupational requirement that workers act in a way that is consistent with the religious beliefs of the school."

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(Photo: REUTERS/Ahmad Masood / )
A Muslim girl studies at a Madrassa, or religious school, in the Muslim dominated Johapura area in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad March 3, 2014. Narendra Modi's critics depict him as an autocratic Hindu supremacist who would tyrannize the country's minority Muslims if his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power. Modi himself insists he is a moderate who will create a prosperous India for people of all creeds. Picture taken March 3, 2014.
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