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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Headscarves in classrooms a gesture of inclusivity: govt

Headscarves in classrooms a gesture of inclusivity: govt

Headscarves in classrooms a gesture of inclusivity: govt


Making good on a promise from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the govt confirms that  Muslim headscarves are cool for school

Vandy Rattana

Cambodian Muslims will now be allowed to wear headscarves in school.

MAKING good on a promise made by Prime Minister Hun Sen two months ago, the government has announced that Cham Muslim students will be allowed to wear  traditional clothing, including headscarves, when the school year begins in October.

Chey Chap, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth, told the Post Thursday that while currently all student uniforms follow internal regulations set by the ministry, Muslim students will be permitted to deviate from the rules.

"While students are supposed to wear white shirts and blue trousers to school, Khmer Muslim students will be allowed to wear traditional uniforms to school because we are open minded about students believing in different religions," Chey Chap said, adding that the Cambodian constitution states that all Cambodians have the same rights under the law, regardless of ethnicity, religion or language.

Zakaryya Adam, secretary of state at the Ministry of Cults  and Religion, heralded the move as a gesture of inclusivity.

"This shows that the government doesn't want to discriminate against Muslim students and will show people that there are a lot of Khmer Muslims within the education system," he said.

No more bending the rules

According to Dy Tep Kosal, director of Chea Sim Cham Reun Roth secondary school, approximately 40 percent of students at his students are Muslim. Until now they have always had to wear a standard uniform in accordance with the school's internal rules - although the school bends these rules for Muslim girls already, he said.

"At the moment Khmer Muslim students don't wear their traditional clothes at school, but they still wear folded scarves around their faces," he said.

For Abdulhalim Kasim, a Muslim student at Norton University, the change is a welcome one.

"While it doesn't make any difference to me because I am a man and can wear whatever Khmer students wear, girls need to wear scarves over their faces," he said.

"The fact that the government will allow us to wear our traditional clothes means it accepts all religions [and] it will make it easier for Khmer Muslims to study," he said, adding that many Muslim students, particularly girls, have abandoned their studies in the past because they could not wear their traditional clothes in the classroom.