School agrees to allow Muslim pupil to grow beard

By Charlene Somduth Time of article published Nov 10, 2018

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Durban - Deliberations between the Department of Education and Ashton International College Benoni on whether a Muslim pupil could grow his beard has yielded positive results.

During a meeting between the school, the parents of the Grade 8 pupil, their legal representative, Werkmans Attorneys, and the department last week, the school agreed to allow the pupil to grow his beard in line with his religious beliefs.

In October, the boy’s father, who will remain anonymous to protect the identity of his minor son, labelled Ashton College “Islamophobic and racist” after the school allegedly told him his child should either shave his beard or leave the school.

At the time, the father said his son decided to follow the Hanafi School of Islamic Jurisprudence, which obliged males reaching puberty to grow their beards.

Despite a formal application having been made by the father to allow his son to grow his beard, the school declined the request and supposedly issued the ultimatum for him to shave or leave.

Amicably

The father had said that although he would like to resolve the impasse amicably, he was prepared for a court battle with the school to ensure his son was not prejudiced in following his faith.

The spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education, Elijah Mhlanga, said the school’s code of conduct required male learners be clean shaven unless a concession was submitted in which case the school had allowed for learners to be closely shaven.

“In terms of the religious beliefs and practices of the learner, he is obligated not to shave his beard and to grow it to a fist-full length. During the meeting, the officials from the department emphasised that the Constitution applied to both public and independent schools and that both departments are committed to the protection of the rights of all pupils regardless of the type of school they attend.”

Mhlanga said that to resolve the matter, the school agreed to review its initial decision of the concession application that was previously submitted on the pupil’s behalf by his parents.

“The school has now allowed the learner to grow his beard, in line with his religious convictions, and to allow him continued attendance at the school in the 2019 academic year and beyond.”

The parents declined to comment.

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