Muslim leaders in the Coast region have called for talks with the government and schools in a bid to have the hijab included as part of school uniform.
They condemned last week’s Supreme Court decision that gave schools the sole power to determine whether they would allow the hijab or not, terming it provocative and divisive.
The ruling overturned an earlier one by the high court that had allowed Muslim girls to wear the garment as part of their uniform.
The hijab is a veil worn by Muslim women to cover their heads and chests and is a religious requirement.
Addressing journalists at Mbaruku mosque, Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supkem) Mombasa coordinator Sheriff Mundhar Khaitany said that involved parties should sit down and talk so as to resolve the issue.
He called on Muslims across the country to exercise patience as a lasting solution is sought. “This is a national issue with grave consequences. All parties involved should dialogue and find a lasting solution,” Sheikh Mudhar said.
The sheikh reiterated that the garment is part and parcel of Islam and banning it is unconstitutional as it violates freedom of worship as outlined in the Bill of Rights.
He also urged the government and the schools to engage in constructive dialogue in order to find ways to solve the issue amicably outside the courts.
“Hijab is not an option for Muslims. Eighty percent of teachers are non-Muslims and we have always cooperated with them as they educate our children.
"Muslims are a minority but their rights should not be denied. The constitution gives us freedom of worship and hijab is part of our religion,” he said.
Supkem Mombasa secretary Ustadh Ali Alfani said religious tolerance is a virtue every country should uphold.
“We have other bigger issues to solve as a country. The hijab issue should not divide us,” Ustadh Alfani said.
Sheikh Mudhar cautioned Muslim institutions against forcing non-Muslims to wear the hijab.
“No one is forced to wear hijab or practice Islam if they are not Muslims. Kenya is a secular society,” Sheikh Mudhar said.
Lamu Cultural Promotional Group Chairman Ghalib Alwy said that apart from being a religious attire, the hijab is also a cultural symbol for Muslim women.