07/16/2013, 00.00
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For Islamic scholar, Islamic headwear is not a Russian Muslim tradition

For Rais Sulemainov, an Islamic scholar, those who defend the hijab for schoolgirls are "demagogues and populists". In fact, even before the Russian Revolution, Muslim women did not wear hijabs, preferring instead Russian national headwear. Tatarstan's only Islamic school has only 50-70 students.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - A ruling by Russia's Supreme Court banning hijabs in schools does not infringe upon the rights of Muslim girls, this according to Islamic scholar Rais Suleimanov.

In an interview with Interfax, he pointed out that Russian Muslim women, particularly in Tatarstan, never covered their heads with hijabs before the Revolution, preferring instead national headwear. Sulemainov heads the Volga-area Centre for Regional and Ethno-Religious Studies of the Russian Institute of Strategic Research.

He said early pictures of schools for girls-set up by Mukhlisa Bubi (1869-1937), the first woman to be a qadi (Sharia judge) in the 1920s-show that none of them wore hijabs and yet they were still considered Muslim. Bubi herself did not wear a hijab (headscarf).

The Supreme Court ruling, which applies to the Stavropol region, has been met with criticism from within the Muslim community, who accuse the country's highest tribunal of limiting religious freedom and forcing parents to keep their daughters at home.

According to Sulemainov, critics are "demagogues and populists" because most Muslim parents send their daughters to secular schools without headwear.

For example in Tatarstan, Usmaniia, a private Islamic school where girls are required to wear a hijab, has only 50 to 70 students."An institution of this type," he noted with irony, "does not seem to enjoy great popularity even among Muslims."

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