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Mozambique's government on Thursday said Muslim schoolgirls are free to wear headscarves after angering the Islamic community over a requirement that pupils seek permission to cover their hair.
Senior government ministers met with Muslim leaders to try to calm tensions after the education ministry issued a notice during the holy fasting month of Ramadan that girls must first seek authorisation.
“We reached an agreement that we did not see any problem with Muslim girls wearing head scarves to school...either during Ramadan or outside the period of Ramadan,” justice ministry spokesman Raphael Bie told AFP.
Education Minister Zeferino Martins overturned the communique but not before tempers were raised in the Muslim community.
Bie admitted there had been a “problem of communication” but stressed there was religious freedom in Mozambique.
“For example, a Catholic nun can teach classes wearing a veil and there is no problem. Muslims can wear headscarves to class too,” he said.
Muslim leaders say they are happy with the decision.
“For five years we have been struggling with schools,” said Islamic Council of Mozambique secretary general Abdul Carimo, explaining that teachers had regularly prevented pupils from going to school wearing scarves.
“We were being denied a very primary right which is in the constitution of Mozambique: the freedom to express your religious beliefs.”
According to reports in the Mozambican media, powerful Muslim groups in Nampula province had threatened to cut links with the ruling Frelimo party over the issue.
Historically, the party has enjoyed considerable support and funding from the Muslim community. - Sapa-AFP