Kosovo’s Islamic Community is pushing for an end to the prohibition on religious uniforms in high schools after a photo of a sign banning use of the burqa in a school drew condemnation.

Kosovo Muslims Want Ban on Religious Dress in Schools Lifted

Illustration. A school in Pristina, Kosovo. Photo: EPA-EFE/VALDRIN XHEMAJ

Kosovo’s Islamic Community Council has asked the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, to remove the ban of wearing religious symbols in high schools after a photo of a sign banning the burqa at the entrance of a high school in Gjakova/Djakovica drew criticism.

Prohibiting use of the burqa in schools reflects a “mindset of the past,” the Council of the Islamic Community wrote in a statement on Friday.

“Religious principles do not damage or pose a risk to society. On the contrary they educate, teach and ennoble,” the statement added, asking the ministry to remove the article in the code of conduct and disciplinary measures for high schools.

“Students are not allowed … to wear religious uniforms,” the instruction reads.

The mayor of Gjakova/Djakovica, Ardian Gjini, apologised for the ban on Facebook. “Gjakova is a rare example of fraternal religious coexistence,” he wrote.

“The Council of the Islamic Community in Gjakova is a highly respected institution… we have agreed that mistakes like the one from yesterday won’t happen in future,” he continued.

A photo of the entrance of the “Nexhmedin Nixha” Technical High School in Gjakova/Djakovica, shared on social media on Thursday, showed a photo banning the Muslim headscarf alongside photos banning guns, tobacco and cosmetic products. The school removed the sign after the photo received negative comments.

The director of Education in Gjakova/Djakovica, Eranda Kumnova Baci, said the headmaster would be disciplined. “We saw the object and the sign has been removed,” she told BIRN, blaming it on “carelessness” and pledging “disciplinary action against the headmaster”.

She did not explain under what provision of the law the headmaster would be disciplined.

Kosovo’s Constitution defines the country as “a secular state, neutral in matters of religious beliefs,” separating state from religion. The law on Pre-University Education obliges public education institutions to “refrain from teaching religion or other activities that propagate a specific religion”.

Moreover, wearing religious symbols in high schools is prohibited by an administrative instruction issued by the Education Ministry.

BIRN was not allowed to enter the high school after being told the headmaster was not there.

MP Duda Balje also condemned the ban on Thursday, calling it “murder of the right to religion”.

“I agree with some of the symbols,” Balje wrote, explaining she could not accept a sign banning the headscarf alongside the other banned items, describing it as “scandalous and an insult to all the citizens in our republic”.

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