Facts

Peer Pressure

 

Peer Pressure 3

                                                          Yusra Dahri, London 

How many times have we all been told through some medium or another that we must stay true to ourselves and not let anyone change who we are?

How many times have we rolled our eyes in response, thinking that it would never be us?

We are far too clever for that!

 If we fast forward a few years later then we all start looking a little foolish.

A flicker of hesitation. An awkward smile.

If we’re so smart, why can’t we think of the perfect thing to say right now, instead of fidgeting nervously?

How do you hold on to your values without offending those who didn’t really mean any harm?

 Peer pressure.

Not as black and white as we thought.

It’s easy enough to defend yourself when someone attacks you directly, but it’s much harder to defend yourself when people challenge your way of thinking, especially unintentionally.

The desire to ‘fit in’ is human nature; no one wants to be an outcast.

But remember, who is it that you’re trying to fit in with? Who are you allowing to influence you?

A family member who has experience with your problem and is trying to give you advice? Or a classmate, someone who is just as inexperienced with real life as you are but insists they know best, or is treated like they do?

And you have to ascertain whether your friends (who are probably quite naive) have your best interests at heart, or don’t know what they’re doing and just don’t want to be alone?

If you’re more inclined to the latter option, then the chances are you’re a sensitive and kind person who wants to help others.

But you have to distinguish whether they need help or they want hedonism.

(If hedonism, say no. There’s no reason for you to take part in something you don’t believe in.)

And even in some cases the help they want is help you can’t give. It’s unfair to you and it’s unfair to them because they aren’t getting the proper help they need.

Peer pressure can also be more confrontational. People will want, even demand you to do something that you really don’t want to do. They may even threaten you, but the key here is to say no.

When I was in my first year of secondary school, there were some people who wanted me to do something that I did not want to do. They even threatened to drop my pencil case out of the window (the stakes were high- that pencil case was brand new!). However, I still refused and blatantly said I would tell a teacher. They scoffed like they didn’t care, but lo and behold, my pencil case was returned to me. I stayed sitting exactly where I was but they left me alone after that. By saying no you give yourself respect and people will sense that immediately.

To their credit, after five years they’ve matured and grown up completely since then.

That’s another reason why it’s so important to stand up for your values: you have no idea what a profound effect it can have on someone else.

The best way to avoid peer pressure or influence is to find a peer group that respects you and your values. If you’re lucky, you may find this at school, but even if you don’t, remember that school is a setting that’s only temporary.

The people you know now you may not even know in another five years, but you have yourself forever. You don’t want to change yourself for people you won’t even remember in ten years time.

So what do you do amidst the hesitation and the awkward smiles? If you’re not quite feeling up to it (which is fine, by the way) stay away and don’t look back. But if you’re feeling brave enough, say what you think clearly and boldly.

There will be pressure. There always will.

But why does that mean you should give in?

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Hijab · Uncategorized · Women

School and Well-being

wellbeing

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

At my school in West London there was a uniform policy of skirts, blouses and blazers. Trousers were not allowed at all until after I left when the great number of girls from the Indian sub-continent led to a change so trousers and in fact a traditional shalwar kameez in standard navy blue joined the uniform list. Until sixth form, when I was able to wear loose trousers and a loose shirt I had to follow the uniform policy. This meant instead of bare legs, socks or sheer tights I wore thick, ribbed opaque tights with my skirt. Islam requires obedience to authority and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has always advocated following rules so I felt this was a compromise which kept my dress modest while conforming to the uniform policy.

By the time my own children started school things had changed; skirts were and are still part of the uniform but have been joined by trousers giving the girls freedom of movement while keeping their legs covered. Schools are pretty tolerant about the requirements of different faiths and have allowed my children to sit out of Christmas Carols and to say their Prayers in an empty classroom during the short winter days.

While headscarves, or hijabs, were visible in some schools during my schooldays now they have become much more common. Muslim girls in secondary schools are routinely able to cover their heads but younger primary aged girls are also sometimes doing so. The subject of primary aged girls wearing headscarves arose recently with reports of some Muslims women approaching Ofsted with the wish to ban the headscarf in primary schools. This was followed by a report that Ofsted inspectors were to question young girls who do wear a headscarf. My reaction on hearing this was why are they trying to make trouble where there is none and is this really going to help a child’s well-being?

There are some primary schoolgirls who wear a hijab; in Islam the requirement to cover the head is once a girl reaches an age of full maturity which can start around the age of 12 or 13 so before that time she doesn’t need to do so and a parent shouldn’t force her to do so either. However there are cases where a girl may wish to cover her head; she may have seen women in her family wear a hijab when going out and wish to do the same. It would not occur to her that she is covering her head from men as the only reason would be innocently wanting to be like the women of her family. In that case is it really necessary to legislate against her action? Very young girls often wear bikinis or make-up which makes them look like their mum and at school will talk about how their clothing can attract the boys. Should legislation be extended to cover this too?

The idea of Ofsted questioning young Muslim girls about covering their heads is a dangerous one and brings up reminders of when children were questioned under the Prevent strategy to uncover evidence of extremism. A child drawing a picture of a man cutting a cucumber which he mispronounced as sounding like “cooker bomb”, another who drew his terraced house spelling it as “terrorist house” were both cases where children and their families were treated as suspects of sorts due to innocent mistakes. A policy of questioning young girls could go the same way.

Leaving aside mistakes being made it would not be healthy for a child to be singled out from their school friends to justify why she covered her head; there are enough reports of stress and mental health issues among young schoolchildren without adding to them when we should be helping children lessen any stress. Even in cases where older girls need to be asked about their hijab it should be ensured this is done sensitively and without making the girls feel they were being singled out for doing something wrong. It is difficult enough for Muslim children these days hearing about terrorist atrocities in the news as well as listening to anti-Muslim sentiment, sometimes to their faces; they can do without the added stress of being made to feel something they are doing or even their very faith is hated or wrong.

Growing up is a difficult time for children when even small problems can feel insurmountable; as adults our treatment of children needs to be in a sensitive manner so as not to add to any anxiety that may already be building up. Common sense needs to be used; if a young girl wishes to cover her head let her; if there are any concerns about a child which need further investigation it should be done in a sensitive manner through proper channels and not merely because she covers her head in school. Rather than causing problems where there are none our goal needs to be putting the well-being of our children first and help them grow up to be relaxed, confident young people who will make positive contributions to society.

Hijab · Islam

Statutory Guidance for Schools, Hijab and OFSTED

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Navida Sayed, London

The head of OFSTED Amanda Spielman announced earlier in the week that Inspectors would question girls who wear hijab in primary school to find out why they do so. She said ‘creating an environment where Muslim children are expected to wear the headscarf could be interpreted as sexualisation of young girls’. If OFSTED inspectors go ahead and start policing the wearing of hijab in primary schools, this will have a detrimental impact on the social and emotional well being of the girls and it will be the gateway to intimidation and harassment of young Muslim girls. It needs to be stressed here that as far as the teachings of Islam go, it does not permit or instruct any individual to enforce the Hijab on women and certainly not on young girls.

There are far greater concerns for education authorities and they have stringent measures in place to protect children, the hijab has not been of concern in this regard. In the current turbulent times in education settings and at home parents from all backgrounds across UK are encouraged to talk to their children about keeping safe from abuse. The NSPCC launched an initiative ‘Talking Pants’ specifically created for parents to discuss the topic of sexual abuse with 4-11 year olds about their bodies and about keeping them safe.[i] This does not mean that children will become sexualised if parents dress them appropriately and talk to them in a child friendly way. Muslim parents adapt similar strategies explaining modesty to children from a very young age, to keep them safe from the harms of society in a child friendly and age appropriate way, this process does not include putting a young girl in a hijab but letting her know at the right age that she has the option to wear the hijab as a means to protect her from the harms of society.

Amanda Spielman should be pleased that Muslim parents are contributing in teaching their teenage children how to be safe from sexual exploitation and abuse after the age of puberty through the observance of hijab. Only recently ‘The Children’s Commissioner for England” has published a report looking into the current provision of education programmes related to the prevention of child sexual abuse in schools in England. Findings from 1,093 primary and secondary schools who responded to an online survey of head teachers show that: around half of primary schools reported that they teach topics related to sexual exploitation and abuse, compared to almost 90% of secondary schools; more than a third of primary schools and 15% of secondary schools do not hold specific sessions with pupils to allow them to raise concerns; 34% of primary schools and 16% of secondary schools do not have a confidential/secure place where pupils can disclose abuse; 20% of primary schools and 12% of secondary schools  do not have a designated person that pupils can go to if they have a concern.’[ii]

Bearing in mind the Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield’s report [iii] surely schools should have no problem with girls who choose to wear a headscarf freely out of her own choice, because it will never pose a hindrance in their education in fact girls choosing to wear hijab have excelled in academic and professional careers.

The Department of Education’s statutory guidance for schools continuously works towards implementing policies and strategies improving education and even promoting children and young people’s emotional health and well being. In some primary schools the overall aim was to equip children with the knowledge and skills to allow them to ‘successfully navigate the complexities of the social world that they are part of’. [iv]  Furthermore The Department for Education framework for the national curriculum at key stages 1 and 2 and includes: Inclusion responding to pupils’ needs and overcoming potential barriers for individuals and groups of pupils.

If OFSTED start questioning young primary school girls about their hijab, it will alienate them and make them feel as if they have done something wrong because they are being questioned by an OFSTED inspector. This can have a detrimental effect on the social and emotional well being of Muslim girls. We hope that OFSTED can continue focusing on their prime goal to improve education standards rather than target the dress of Muslim girls.

 

 

[i] Nspcc.org.uk. (2017) https://www.nspcc.org.uk/globalassets/documents/advice-and-info/underwear-rule-guide-for-parents.pdf

[ii] Safeguardingkids.co.uk. (2017). Preventing child sexual abuse: the role of schools | Child Protection Training UK. https://www.safeguardingkids.co.uk/blog/?p=2837

[iii] Childrenscommissioner.gov.uk. (2017). https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Preventing-CSA-The-Role-of-Schools-CCO-April-2017-1.2-1.pdf

[iv] Ncb.org.uk. (2017).

https://www.ncb.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/attachment/NCB%20School%20Well%20Being%20Framework%20Leaders%20Resources%20FINAL.pdf

 

 

Hijab · Islam

What Hijab Signifies: OFSTED and Primary Schools

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Sarah Waseem, London

Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector for Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education (UK)) inspectors will talk to primary school girls who wear the hijab to ascertain from them why they do so. The move comes after concerns that wearing the hijab could be interpreted as the sexualising of young girls.

Is the hijab more sexualising than wearing a skirt, which many schools require for girls but not boys? Surely Ms Spielman should also be questioning young boys as to why they might choose to wear trousers instead of skirts and vice versa with young girls? Interestingly there do not seem to be any plans to question young Jewish or Sikh boys regarding their head coverings, nor any concerns that they too, may be being sexualised.

Sadly the hijab has become politicized – a symbol of both oppression and defiance. Rather like the Kaffiyeh this simple piece of cloth has taken on a life of its own. Many, including Muslims, forget its true significance which is rooted in the maintaining peace in society.

The Holy Qur’an provides a social code and moral code outlining the boundaries that protect us all- men and women. Wearing the hijab is part of a broader Quranic instruction directed at both men and women regarding their responsibilities to God and to mankind. Men are first directed to ‘restrain’ their eyes down so that they do not transgress others’ boundaries (24:31) Women are then instructed in the next verse to do likewise and additionally to wear a head covering. (24:32) The hijab represents for both men and women, a visual reminder of the sanctity of that boundary of interpersonal relationships which is not to be transgressed if peace is to be maintained in human interactions.

Muslim women will often say that the hijab is not about limiting them, but about liberating them, a concept which some non-Muslims find hard to comprehend. How can this piece of cloth which seems to hide one’s beauty be liberating?

Boundaries protect because they delineate what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. The hijab signals to the observer, the rights of the wearer and reminds the wearer of the standards of moral conduct expected by the All-Seeing God. We live in an age where our moral compass has gone awry. The recent revelations from the abuse of women in Hollywood and within the Halls of Westminster are just one example that demonstrates that boundaries, that should be protecting of interpersonal relationships are being eroded.

So the hijab allows the Muslim woman to feel safe within the boundary she has declared around herself and reminds her of her moral obligations to her God. With that established, she can then go about her daily life without any fear of how her actions may be interpreted or misinterpreted.

Questioning young Muslim girls about why they might choose to follow the example of female role models among them, is intrusive, likely to be traumatic and completely unnecessary. The hijab does not sexualise – rather the contrary. For mature Muslim young girls and boys it signals a reminder of their responsibilities to each other.  For young Muslim girls who choose to wear it, it is an aspirational statement of wanting to be like their mothers and no different from non-Muslim girls, dressing up in their mothers’ clothing.   The Ofsted Inspectors would do better to have a dialogue with parents from all religions about the role that faith can play in producing well rounded young members of society.

 

 

Hijab · Islam

A Letter To OFSTED

Munazzah 1

Munazzah Chou, London

Dear OFSTED

The case of your inspectors asking young primary school girls about their choice of clothing makes as much sense as CQC inspectors asking paediatric patients about their sartorial choices in clinic. Very little. The function of both organisations being the inspection and regulation of services, why one would wish to expand its already hefty responsibilities is curious.

A hijab is no barrier to education and learning so OFSTED should have no fear of their services falling on muffled ears; if the quality of education provision is high then the attainment of Muslim girls will be commensurately high.

I don’t believe that children in primary schools are required in Islam to wear hijab but it cannot be right to single out any single religious group within the wider school community for closer inspection. At least I don’t believe that it can be done without making that group feel targeted, for the group to become defensive and insular and eventually marginalised.

Let us assume now that these children are forced to wear hijab, contrary to Islamic teaching. Will their education suffer because of this piece of cloth? Should we not be more concerned about the suffering of a child in an unhappy home with no right to self-determination. Surely even these concerns fall outside the remit of OFSTED. A teacher is best placed to address any social concerns once identified. If a teacher wishes to ask older Muslim girls about their hijabs it must be handled sensitively so that they do not feel isolated or discriminated against.

The idea that hijab equates to sexualisation of girls is just bizarre. I can think of many items of school uniform which could be considered to play a part in sexualisation of young girls- but to have this accusation levied against the hijab falls outside my understanding.

Islam does not require young girls to wear hijab but if a personal choice is made from a desire to emulate their mothers isn’t it healthy that they see their mother as a positive role model within a secure and happy family unit. No school or government linked body should take any action that could serve to make any Muslim child feel as though there is something wrong with their religion or culture.

Yours

Munazzah Chou

Hijab · Islam

Ofsted, Hijab and Primary School Muslim Girls

Laiqa 1

Laiqa Bhatti, Surrey

When Ofsted announced that their inspectors will talk to primary school girls who wear hijabs a few days back in order to tackle ‘sexualisation of children’, it raised a lot of questions and debate. In a climate where Islamophobia and related hate crimes are rising, the hijab has been the go-to issue for the Far-Right. Yet it is shocking to see an Independent body such as Ofsted announcing plans that further alienate and discriminate against Muslims.

In the Holy Qur’an, the requirement for the hijab is only for those women who have reached full physical maturity, which most certainly does not apply to primary school girls. The reality is that age the Hijab is a symbolic piece of clothing that many young Muslim girls see their mothers, older sisters or other female role models in their life wear. Questioning them most likely would yield the answer along the lines of ‘because mummy does it’. I know I started wearing the hijab because of inspiring women around me. That is what children do, they mimic behaviours around them. My two-year-old son would run around in my headscarf, proud to be like mummy, and now half a year later, like daddy he proudly wears a hat on his head during prayer time. If he was to go to primary school in a hat, or if a Jewish boy wears his kippah, or a Sikh boy his turban, will they be questioned too?

The reasoning behind this proposition was even more disturbing as the chief inspector said the hijab could be interpreted as “sexualisation of young girls”. This alone displays the lack of awareness behind the hijab and its spiritual purpose. If anything, the hijab removes all kinds of sexualisation rather than form it. And as it does not even apply to young girls, besides wanting to be like mum or being proud of their religion, young, impressionable girls will be marginalised and interrogated on something that they themselves are not old enough to fully understand yet. If Ofsted, as an organisation was unable to understand the philosophy of the hijab, how do they expect little children to understand and furthermore convey it? When the focus of OFSTED should be on policies that create equality and inclusion of every culture and religion and as a result improve education standards, this implementation will create nothing but confusion, distress and marginalisation of Muslim girls simply due to their choice of wearing a hijab. Even with girls in secondary school, unless every pupil is questioned for their reasoning of their way of dressing either way, then it is discrimination based on religious beliefs.

In actual fact, sexualisation of children, inside and outside of school has been a very real issue for years is becoming an epidemic issue. Maria Miller, a senior Conservative MP reported a 71% increase in peer-on-peer abuse in schools in the past three years with more than 7,800 reported cases in 2016. [1]

This increase has been put down to unsupervised internet access from an early age meaning as many as 95% of year 7 boys having accessed pornography. [2] Combining this with the ever increasing sexualisation of women and the pressure on girls to conform to stereotypes witnessed on TV, internet, particularly social media, sexualisation of children as a result and the lack of victim support in schools is shocking and is not being addressed quickly or effectively despite the rise in this. Yet Ofsted is focused on looking to possibly ban the hijab in primary schools when, considering that only 5% of the UK population are Muslims, the number of little girls choosing to wear the Hijab is very small.

 

 

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/nov/02/sexual-attacks-in-schools-action-is-taking-too-long-says-mp

 

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/sep/12/sexualised-behaviour-in-very-young-children-increasing-say-teachers

 

 

Hijab · Uncategorized · Women

Ofsted and Hijabs: Truth Unveiled

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Sarah Waseem, London

I read with some surprise and concern that a group headed by former Parliamentary candidate Amina Lone, is planning to meet with Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of Schools to discuss the “unacceptable rise of the hijab in state funded primary schools”.

In a rather convoluted letter, the group argue that primary schools, by allowing young girls to wear the hijab are in some way sexualising them and denying them gender equality. Interestingly, they seem not to have any concerns about the sexualising of young Jewish boys wearing the kippah, or young Sikh boys wearing the patka. Also, the fact that most primary school do not include dresses or skirts for boys in their uniform policy does not seem to present concerns for them regarding the ‘sexualising’ of boys.

It is correct that Islamic teachings do not require young girls to wear a head covering until they reach puberty, apart from when they are performing Prayers. However, the reality is that girls mature at different rates, with some starting menarche at primary school. Therefore, a general ban on hijabs in Primary School would hinder these girls from practicing their faith.

The covering of the head by adult Muslim women is clearly mandated in the Holy Qur’an, in chapter 24 verse 32 or in some editions verse 31. The group argue that some Muslim countries pressurise women to “cover up”. However, many of these countries have also allowed extremist versions of Islam to flourish. They have appalling human rights records including religious discrimination against other faiths, AND other sects of Islam, notably Shias and Ahmadi Muslims. This is nothing to do with the hijab or the suppression of women’s rights but is politically motivated to achieve the dominance of one group over another.

For the authors to refer to the horrific treatment of Yazidis by so called Islamic State, in the context of Primary Schools allowing the hijab as part of their uniform policy is just inexcusable. The majority of the Muslim world has repeatedly condemned the actions of so called Islamic State and distanced themselves from them. For example, the Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad has repeatedly warned about the dangers of international governments supporting extremist groups through their funding of weapons.  Wearing a hijab does not turn Muslims into terrorists and murderers!

The authors disingenuously link FGM to Islam when the overwhelming evidence shows that this practice is not permitted according to the teachings of Islam. Moreover, FGM is a terrible practice that is also prevalent in certain Christian and pagan societies.   The authors also disingenuously allude to an association between Islam, child sexual exploitation and forced marriages. I challenge them to produce references from the Holy Qur’an  to support any of these allegations.

I find it sad that once again, Islamic practises are being attacked in such a sensationalist way by focusing on women, the very section of society that the authors seem to want to ‘empower’.

Wearing the hijab does not disadvantage girls and women in any way. I invite the authors of this letter to meet with ladies from our Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, doctors, teachers, business women, health professionals, lawyers, all of whom lead fully integrated lives in society and wear the hijab.

 

* Edited for correction on 11/09/2017