A recent ban on the wearing of hijab in Russia’s southern region
of Stavropol is squeezing the Muslim population in the area,
forcing many to send their daughters to neighboring districts to
be able to wear the outfit or give them home schooling, The New
York Times reported.
“If they think that because something will happen with my daughter
I will forget my religion — I say, NO. Religion is the goal of my
life,” Ali Salikhov, a Muslim father, told the newspaper.
“For 70 years they taught us that
there was no God, but that passed, and this will also pass", he
“In 20 years they will have
forgotten that hijabs were ever forbidden in Russia", he added.
Salikhov’s daughters have been
prohibited from wearing hijab after their school in the village of
Kara-Tyube banned the Muslim outfit in October.
Though they were initially allowed to attend their school in
September while donning hijab, they were told later that they
would not be allowed in unless they took off their headscarf.
issue grabbed media attention after their stern Russian
schoolmistress became hero for refusing to admit the girls to
school in hijabs.
The region’s leaders backed her up by
introducing a uniform that does not allow girls to wear head
coverings at all — a restriction that affects a population of
around 2.7 million.
Joining the debate, Russian President Vladimir Putin supported the ban on hijab in schools, describing the outfit
as an “alien tradition”.
The restrictions have left no other
option to Muslim families but to send their daughters to other
districts to continue their education, while observing their
Hearing the news, Salikhov’s 15-year-old daughter Raifat wept that
she would be sent to neighboring Dagestan.
“She didn’t want to leave,” said her mother Maryam Salikhova. “She
was sad, and the other girls were sad. They said, ‘Stay here with
us.’ But she was already grown up.”
Her niece Amina, 10, also
began having one-on-one sessions with a teacher instead of
attending class at the regional elementary school.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol
displaying one’s affiliations.
The hijab ban is seen as an attempt
to stir up tensions between religious groups that have been living
together peacefully for decades.
“When we discussed the social
aspect of the problem with hijabs, one of our opponents said, ‘Let
these people go back to their historical homeland, to their hijab
homeland, and let them wear hijabs there,’ ” said Murad Musayev, a
celebrity lawyer from neighboring Chechnya who agreed to represent
four fathers of daughters now excluded from school.
The ban comes amid
rising ethnic tensions that have confronted the Kremlin recently.
To curb the tensions partially in the North Caucasus, Putin
granted subsidies and broad autonomy to its predominantly Muslim
But now the Kremlin must cope with growing resentment in
mostly ethnic Russian regions like Stavropol, which lies at the
edge of the Caucasus mountain range, dominated by Russian Orthodox
Taking the decision to ban the hijab, authorities have
also angered Muslim ethnic groups, including those that have never
adopted the headscarf. Anvar Suyunov, a Nogay from Kara-Tyube,
said the edict touched on “a very tricky question of
self-determination” and could prove dangerously divisive.
stupid idea, because they could tear the country apart,” he said.
Others, including the Salikhov family, saw the decision as a trial
by the authorities to create problems in the village to force the
Muslim family to leave the area.
“They should pass a law saying,
‘Don’t come here,’ ” he said. “At least then I would know I was
breaking the law.”
The Russian Federation is home to
some 23 million Muslims in the north of the Caucasus and southern
republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
Islam is Russia's second-largest
religion representing roughly 15 percent of its 145 million
predominantly Orthodox population.