11/23/2004, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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Turbans banned from schools

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Malaysia's second highest court upheld the right of public schools to bar male Muslim students from wearing the serban, the Muslim turban, to class, drawing protests from the opposition radical Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).

The Appeal Court ruled that the government and schools are within their right to set dress codes. This overturns a decision by the High Court ordering the reinstatement of students expelled for wearing the serban. In that case, the judges had decided that a ban violated the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.

The case had started in 1997 when a public school in the southern state of Negeri Sembilan expelled three Muslim boys, aged between 10 and 13, for wearing the turban.
In a country where about 55 per cent its 25 million people are Muslim, and where Muslim girls are allowed to wear headscarves in schools, the ban on turbans is justified because the serban is associated with "Muslim elders, imams, [and] those who are wiser".

According to Hatta Ramli, member of the PAS central committee member, "it's moving backwards from a decision allowing freedom of expression for the children."

"If people start to ban such kinds of freedom of expression, we would be no different from France where they have banned headscarves in schools," he said. (FP)

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