The Education Ministry already has an optional school uniform with hijab for female Muslim students.
Photo above is of a hijab being worn by a young student at a school in Bahrain (See Wikimedia).
Click button to listen to Hijab Ban at Wat School and rightclick to download
COMMENTARY: Freedom of choice in our schools by Sanitsuda Ekachai, Assistant Editor
Covered from head to toe in black Muslim dress, 17-year-old Atitaya Sulaiman was stunned when a granny in a shiny white dress, a symbol of her Buddhist devoutness, rushed forward to give her a verbal salvo.
So it's you who wants to wear hijab to school? Let me say this to you. Don't be ungrateful to your teachers! And if you really want to wear it, go do it in the Middle East.
The teenager was stunned. Then tears rolled down her cheeks. Her relatives quickly embraced her as she started to sob.
The fierce granny was part of an army of white-clad elderly women who accompanied a group of ultra-nationalist monks to attend a recent meeting at Mahidol University concerning Wat Nong Chok School's refusal to allow Atitaya to wear the hijab to school.
When the so-called dialogue was over, and when everybody was about to leave, one of the monk's supporters just could not resist leaving without saying something to the girl's face.
I asked Atitaya afterwards if she was angry with the verbal attack. "No," she said in her sweet, gentle voice. "I was just stunned. I can't be angry. People still don't understand why the hijab is important to us. I have to help make them understand.
Several Muslim women at the meeting tried to explain that covering one's head and body is a religious duty for Muslim women, not a cultural choice. That the practice of modesty is also a tool to attain higher virtues. That there is no division between clerics and laypeople in Islam, so all Muslims are semi-monastics who must live the teachings in their daily lives.
The dialogue stressed deep listening and empathy, but the message obviously went missing on many.
"Tell me, will I not go to heaven just because I am not wearing a hijab?" asked one monk. Then he turned to Atitaya directly. "Why didn't you go to other schools which allow wearing the hijab? Why don't we solve the problem the Thai way? If we face a problem here, we go somewhere else. End of problem
If people keep insisting on religion and ignore rules and regulations, how can we live together as a society.
Last year, Atitaya was among the 17 Muslim female students who asked her school to allow them to wear the hijab to school. School director Prapon Leesin resisted, citing the school's secular dress code, school culture and impropriety, since the school is situated within the grounds of a Buddhist temple.
A rights group, Muslims for Peace, intervened, citing the girls' constitutional rights and the Education Ministry's school uniform regulations that allow for religious diversity.
The controversy consequently expanded to involve the abbot of Nong Chok Temple, the Office of National Buddhism, and the Ecclesiastical Council. The latter later ruled that any schools on temple property must observe Thai and Buddhist traditions, as well as the temple's rules and regulations.
"It's good manners," said another monk. "You've got to respect the host's rules." Tell me. Am I wrong to be mad at people using Buddhism wrongly to support their bigotry.
Is there anything in Buddhism prohibiting people from wearing their traditional clothes in temples? Of course not. Does Buddhism teach open-mindedness? Should monks speak and act with compassion? Absolutely.
And stop saying that wearing the hijab is against school regulations. It is not. The Education Ministry has an optional school uniform, with long sleeves, long skirt, and a hijab for female Muslim students. It states clearly that wearing this hijab uniform or not is up to the student's choice
And this is Atitaya's choice.
At the dialogue session, the girl listened attentively as other Muslim women shared how they had fought for the right to wear the hijab in workplaces or for ID card photos, what ridicule they faced and what patience it took them before society started to open up.
"Their stories made me feel heartened," said Atitaya. "They taught me the importance of believing in what you are doing. And the need for patience.
Sanitsuda Ekachai is Assistant Editor, Bangkok Post (email@example.com)
(Source: Bangkok Post, COMMENTARY, Freedom of choice in our schools, 12/05/2011, Sanitsuda Ekachai, Assistant Editor, link)
Muslim - a person whose religion is Islam (See Wikipedia)
hijab - a head covering worn by Muslim women (See Wikipedia and Google Definitions)
freedom of choice - เสรีภาพในการเลือก
granny - older woman (grandmother)
symbol - an object or figure that represents some idea, has meaning as an idea สัญลักษณ์
devout (adjective) - very religious มีใจศรัทธา
devoutness (noun) - the state or condition of a person being very religious
stunned - very shocked or upset ทำให้ตกใจ ทำให้วิตกกังวล
rushed - go somewhere very quickly ด้วยความเร่งรีบ
verbal - spoken, something you say (not written)
salvo - the firing of several guns or weapons at the same time
grateful - ซึ่งสำนึกในบุญคุณ
ungrateful - not grateful
cheeks - the soft parts of your face below your eye and between your mouth and ear แก้ม
relatives - family, people from her family
embrace - put your arms around another person to show love or to comfort them when they are sad or in trouble กอด
sob - cry
fierce - very intense and very aggressive
army - a large group of people กลุ่มคน, ฝูงชน
clad - wearing a particular type of clothing, dressed or covered สวมใส่
white-clad - dressed in white
ultra - extreme, over
nationalist - a person who expresses great (sometimes excessive) love for their country
elderly - older people, over 65 สูงวัย, อาวุโส, อายุมาก
accompanied - went together with ติดตาม, ร่วมทาง, เดินทางไปด้วย
meeting - when a group of people come together to discuss issues and make decisions การประชุม
dialogue - formal talks between opposing groups or countries, political groups, etc. การสนทนา, การอภิปราย
support - help, by giving money, for example สนับสนุน
supporter - a person who supports something ผู้สนับสนุน
could not resist - could not control themselves (driven to do something by an uncontrollable emotion or feeling)
voice - เสียงพูด, เสียงที่เปล่งจากปาก,
duty - something that you have to do because it is part of your job, or something that you feel is the right thing to do หน้าที่, ความรับผิดชอบ
culture (noun) - วัฒนธรรม
practice - something that people do regularly, a way of doing something การปฏิบัติ
modesty - 1. behaviour designed to avoid creating sexual feelings in other people; when a woman is shy or embarassed about showing one's body หิริ 2. shame ความละอายใจ, 3. plainess, humility and lack of ostentation ความถ่อมตัว (See Macmillan and Longdo)
attain - achieve a goal (after a lot of effort), be successful บรรลุเป้าหมาย, สำเร็จ
virtue - คุณงามความดี, ความมีศีลธรรม
division - separating things into two or more groups
cleric (noun) - a priest, religious leader, a member of the clergy บุคคลในศาสนา
clergy (noun) - people who lead religious worship or services
monastic (noun) - a monk
laypeople - people who are not priests or monks
semi - partly, not fully
stressed - nervous and anxious about what will happen (in the future, for example)
empathy - the ability to share someone else's feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in their situation ความสามารถในการเข้าใจความรู้สึกของผู้อื่น
insisting - keeping saying very firmly that something is true or that something happen, even when other people don't accept it ยืนกราน
ignore - to intentionally not listen or give attention to, to pretend that you have not noticed or do not know about something เพิกเฉย
regulations - official rules that control the way things are done ระเบียบ ข้อบังคับ rules made by the government to control how some activity is done กฎระเบียบ
female - of a woman สำหรับผู้หญิง
resist - opposed, did not agree with something
citing - mentioning as a reason ให้ อ้างอิงเหตุผล
secular - not religious, has no connection to religion
code - rules of proper behaviour for a particular job, organisation, etc. มาตรการ, กฎเกณฑ์, ระเบียบ
dress code - rules for dressing (at a school, company or other organization), rules for what clothes must be worn (uniform, formal clothes)
situated - located ตั้งอยู่ที่
grounds - the area surrounding a building บริเวณ,เขต,สถานที่
rights - something you are legally or morally allowed to do or have or do สิทธิ์ (See Wikipedia)
intervened - became involved in an activity (to solve problems and fix things)
constitutional - correct or allowed according to the constitution ถูกต้องหรืออยู่ในขอบข่ายที่ระบุไว้ในรัฐธรรมนูญ
diversity - a great variety, many different types, including many different types of things or people ความหลากหลาย
controversy - a disagreement, especially about a public policy or a moral issue that a lot of people have strong feelings about ความขัดแย้ง, ประเด็นข้อขัดแย้ง
abbot - the head monk at a temple เจ้าอาวาส
property - land
traditions - beliefs and ways of doing things (customs) that have existed for a long time
observe tradition - follow the old way of doing things, don't go outside of the old way of doing things
manners - rules and ways of behaving with a group of people (good manners, bad manners) มารยาทสังคม
good manners - politeness, treating other people politely and with respect
respect - be thoughful and considerate of others, accept the importance of other people's rights or customs ความเอาใจใส่
host - a person or organization that arranges a special event such as a party or a meal, providing a place for it to happen as well as equipment and services เจ้าภาพ
bigotry - having very strong and unreasonable opinons, especially about race, politics and religion, and refusing to consider other people's opinions ความหัวดื้อ,ความมีทิฐิมานะ ที่เชื่อว่าตนมีความคิด มีมาตรฐานที่ดีกว่าเหนือกว่า ทำให้ไม่รับฟังและพิจารณาความเห็นของผู้อื่น
traditional - things (clothes, music, customs, etc.) that have been part of a country or society for a long time
act - a law passed by a country's government พ.ร.บ. พระราชบัญญัติ
compassion - a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for the suffering or bad luck of others and a wish to help them ความเห็นใจ, ความรู้สึกเศร้าใจไปกับความทุกข์ของผู้อื่น
optional - a choice that is possible, available or possible if you want it, but you do not have to have it or do it ตัวเลือก ที่เลือกได้
session - a formal meeting การชุมนุม ประชุม
ridicule - laugh at, mock เยาะเย้ย, ล้อเลียน
patience - the ability to wait for a long time without becoming angry or upset, able to stay calm waiting for changes or work that you want ความอดทน
open up - become more accepting of differences (among cultures, religions and people)
hearten - to make feel more hopeful and positive about the future (and thus make feel happier)
feel heartened - feel hopeful and happy
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