RUSSIA: Vladimir Putin angers Muslims, backs ban on headbags (headscarves) for girls in school

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he was against allowing students to wear Muslim headscarves at schools, but welcomed the idea of returning to school uniforms. Several outraged Muslim families in the city of Stavropol have complained to the head mufti about the headscarf ban and allegedly have threatened the principal of the school.

National Post (H/T Susan K)  President Vladimir Putin spoke out Thursday against the wearing of headscarves in Russian schools in his first public comment on a potentially explosive issue. Putin’s statement follows a recent incident in Russia’s southern region of Stavropol during which a school principal forbade girls from Muslim families from wearing headscarves to class. Their parents protested and the principal said she was threatened.

Asked to comment on the issue, Putin clearly voiced his opposition to headscarves at schools, saying that Russia is a secular state and must create equal conditions for all its citizens.

“We need to see how our neighbors in European countries are dealing with this problem, then everything will become clear,” he said. In Europe, France and Belgium have banned the wearing of headscarves or face-covering Islamic veils in public, as have some towns in Spain and elsewhere. Police in Azerbaijan clashed with citizens protesting a ban on the wearing of headscarves in the mainly Muslim ex-Soviet nation’s secondary schools.

The Russian president insisted that attempts to stand out in multi-religious communities will sooner or later make representatives of other religions feel deprived of their freedoms and rights. “It is better if everybody feels equal,” Putin stressed.

He also proposed that regional and municipal authorities should consider re-introducing a single school uniform at schools across Russia, as it used to be in the Soviet Union.

If the dispute over headscarves escalates in Russia, it could fuel tensions between the federal government and Chechnya and other Muslim-dominated provinces. Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has imposed a tight Islamic dress code on females. Girls and women are strongly advised to wear headscarves in public. Kadyrov’s feared black-clad security forces have used paintball guns, threats and insults against those failing to obey.