As an expression of her Muslim religion, London childcare assistant Rachida Serroukh wears a niqab over her face. But when she went to a parents' event at her 11-year-old daughter's prestigious school Holland Park, a staff member told her it was forbidden to wear a veil on campus, The Guardian reports. To fight back against this ban, she's suing Holland Park for religious discrimination.
When the staff member first told Serroukh – a Holland Park alum herself – that she couldn't wear the veil, she was surprised. She told The Guardian that nobody had given her any issues at security, she had a friend who wore a veil to the school, and "video footage of the school choir singing in a church" played at the event, suggesting that not all religious expression was frowned upon. When she asked to see the school's policy, she was asked to leave.
"I was very shaken and was in a state of shock about what had happened," she said. "I had never experienced anything like this before. I have experienced name calling in the street from strangers about my veil, but nothing like this had ever happened before. When I got home, I just broke down."
Serroukh later learned that Department for Education guidelines let schools decide their policy on students' veils but don't say anything about parents. The school's deputy head Ross Wilson told her Holland Park had no policy regarding visitors in veils but might soon add one. "How are you able to justify banning the face veil for all which come onto school grounds?" she replied. "I had shown my face prior to coming onto school grounds therefore security cannot have been a cause for concern." He reportedly explained that the veil could get in the way of the staff identifying everyone on campus – but Serroukh wasn't buying it. "I feel like I don’t belong here even though I live across the road and used to attend the school," she told The Guardian.
Serroukh's lawyer Attiq Malik told The Independent that banning veils from a school could set a dangerous precedent. "It’s a much bigger issue about human rights of every citizen in this country,” he said. “And it’s become a bigger issue in recent years unfortunately due to the Islamophobic narrative that has been going on. Today it might be a lot of Muslims being targeted, but hate sees no boundaries of race, color or religion, so if you allow it to take place on one group today and it isn’t challenged – tomorrow it could many other groups in society."