Ohio principal cancels Muslim headscarf event, apologizes


http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2015/04/16/mason-high-school-asks-female-students-to-wear-islamic-hijab/25909373/

MASON It was pitched as an event that would “celebrate diversity” – students would wear a headscarf for a day to get a taste of Islamic culture.

It backfired.

Mason High School canceled “A Covered Girl Challenge,” and principal Mindy McCarty-Stewart sent an apology Thursday to district families.

The event was meant to combat stereotypes students may face when wearing head coverings, McCarty-Stewart wrote, but “as the event spread beyond our school community, however, we received many strong messages that made me reconsider the event’s ability to meet its objectives.

I now realize that as adults we should have given our students better guidance. After much consideration and after talking with the student event organizers, we have canceled the event.”

The Covered Girl Challenge was initially scheduled for April 23. Female students who wanted to participate would wear a headscarf, or hijab, for the entire school day. Then, there would be a time for discussion and reflection.

The event was sponsored by MHS’ Muslim Student Association, but an email promoting it came from MHS’ Student Activities Department. In her letter, McCarty-Stewart said that should not have happened.

The event was student-led rather than school-sponsored, she said, adding that MHS will put policies in place to ensure further communication from the school email account is limited to school-sponsored events.

Online, backlash was strong as word spread of the challenge.

Some said it was akin to making fun of Muslim traditions – the same as if people wore a Habit or priest’s collar for fun.

Others were upset Mason canceled it, saying the school “caved to bigotry.”

Yasmeen Allen is an Iraqi native with two teenagers at Mason High. Allen’s daughter wears a hijab to mosque worship but not to school, Allen said, adding that the family is “really upset that the school is succumbing to outside pressure of racism and bigotry toward people who are different from them.”

The event was voluntary and student-led, thus not a violation of church and state, Allen said.

Muslim students “were robbed of an opportunity” to support their religion and counter some of the negativity it faces around the world, she said.

“They are American Muslims, and they have a right to be heard just like anybody else,” Allen said. “Mason schools have failed miserably in upholding their diversity mission.”

Mason City Schools has a heavy focus on student leadership, said spokeswoman Tracey Carson. There are numerous student-led groups, and they often create and promote their own events.

“The key there is, it’s student-led and student-driven,” Carson said. “In this case, I think, honestly, where we messed up is because adults got too involved in this process.”

Mason has a duty to allow students to freely practice religion, Carson said. Students of all faiths are allowed to wear traditional religious garb to school.

“But at the same time, we can’t promote religion,” she said, “and I think by us having the permission slip (for the Covered Girl event), by adults having sent the email, I think we crossed that line.”

This is not the first Muslim-themed controversy to hit the Mason school community. About a decade ago, former school board candidate Sharon Poe and then- board member Jennifer Miller publicly blasted school officials for allowing Muslim students to have a separate lunch hour for fasting during Ramadan, which occurs during the ninth month of the Muslim calendar.

That is a holiday practice still continued at Mason schools. The area, however, is open to any student, regardless of faith, Carson said.

Poe is also opposed the Covered Girl event, she said.

“My belief is wearing these hijabs represents the oppression of women and Sharia law,” she said.

I do not recall ever getting an email announcing a Christian Cross Wearing day or a booth for information about the Christian persecution from Islamic terrorists. What happen to the argument of the separation of church and state?”

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