British police investigate abuse of head teacher at school that banned hijab

LONDON: Police in the UK have opened an investigation into online abuse targeting the head teacher of an East London primary school where girls younger than the age of eight were banned from wearing the hijab.

Neena Lall, the head teacher at St. Stephen’s primary school, along with Arif Qawi, the former chairman of governors, received emails, Facebook posts and other social media messages leading to a complaint being filed with police, according to The Sunday Times.

Qawi said he received abusive online messages the day after a report broke about St.

Stephen’s last month which mentioned the decision to ban the hijab being worn by young girls.

Local Imam Yunus Dudhwala shared Qawi’s Facebook post of The Sunday Times article and invited people to comment online.

According to reports, some of the messages that followed were abusive. One described Qawi as a “coconut,” while another comment claimed he was Islamophobic; a third comment called him an “imbecile.”

The school has since reversed its hijab ban, with Qawi claiming that the campaign of messages, some abusive, had forced the school to change tack.

Qawi has since resigned his position, stating that he left as he did not agree with reversing the hijab ban and to protect the head teacher. “She was told that if I left, the campaign would stop,” he told The Sunday Times.

St. Stephen’s school also reportedly forbade Muslim pupils from fasting on school days during Ramadan. Qawi refuted the claim, telling The Sunday Times: “We did not ban fasting altogether but we encouraged (children) to fast in holidays, at weekends and not on the school campus.

“Here we are responsible for their health and safety if they pass out on campus … it is not fair to us.”

School inspectors are expected to publish a report praising the school’s leaders and governors this week.

Ofsted is expected to criticize the pressures that have fallen on Lall and her management team.

The education secretary, Damian Hinds, has defended the school in an interview, saying: “No head teacher or governing body should be subject to the sorts of abuse we have heard reported in these recent incidents.”