Kazakhstan government, home to a population with 70 per cent Muslims, has announced a ban on head-scarves for students and teachers in schools and educational institutions.

“Requirements for the school uniform prohibit the wearing of the hijab, since any attribute, symbol, element in one way or another implies propaganda of the dogma to which they relate. Ensuring the equality of all religions before the law, the principles of secularism do not allow the advantage of any religion,” the Kazakh Government’s website stated on October 16.

The ban has initiated a fierce debate on different levels of the populace. The Government, however, has maintained that Kazakhstan is a secular country. The opposing group consider the ban a violation of the freedom of expression and conscience.

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Consequently, many students have dropped out of the school. Education Minister Gani Beisembayev confirmed that a total of 150 girls dropped out of school in the Atyarau region, whereas in Turkestan, two men reportedly beat a school director for not allowing the girls wearing hijab to attend lectures.

As a sign of protest, many are posting videos of burning down their books or pictures of them wearing a hijab stating that they will not trade anything for their right to wearing the head covering.
A member of Almaty Social Council in Qojaly believes that “First of all, you have to know that the hijab is actually a headscarf with which girls in Kazakhstan were covered from puberty, that is, from the age of 13.There is no religious connotation here. Second, the law enshrines the right to education, and the ban that has been enacted is an artificial barrier to exercising that right. Why do headscarves suddenly prevent Muslim girls from joining secular life? No one is banning the wearing of Christian crosses or tubeteika caps. In fact, we are talking about a certain form of segregation.”

The Grand Mufti of Kazakhstan, Nauryzbay Kazhy Taganuly, has proposed that the girls who want to wear hijab should join Madrassas or any Muslim Educational institution from grade 10 onwards. So far nobody has objected to this.

Amidst all this, President Kassym-Jomart has expressed his determination to ensure “freedom of religion” as per the law of his secular state.