Following a lawsuit filed by a Rastafarian father against Olympic Highschool in Kibra for refusing to admit his daughter to school over her dreadlocks, the High court said that the decision to exclude the girl from school because of her dreadlocks was unconstitutional and declared Rastafarianism a religion in Kenya.
But this ruling did not augur well with the Muslim fraternity who accused the judicial system of being biased. In January this year, the Supreme Court overturned a 2016 Court of Appeal ruling that allowed Muslim students to wear hijab in non-Muslim schools, following a petition filed by the Methodist Church of Kenya claiming that it sowed discord.
“It is now clear that the courts in Kenya are applying double standards on the issue of the freedom of worship as enshrined in the Constitution of the country. The ruling barring Muslim girls from wearing the headscarf was not only provocative but demeaning and undermining to the rights of Muslims for no apparent reason,” said Abdallah Ateka, Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) chairman.
A hijab signifies a serious cultural commitment for Muslim women just like wearing dreadlocks does for the Rastafarians and donning head scarves for the Akorino. Mr. Ateka noted that the hijab carries heavy religious connotation insisting that Muslim learners in non-Muslim schools are being frustrated as some of them are forced to attend church services, which is contrary to their beliefs.
“Since the Constitution provides for freedom of worship, respect of all people’s religious practices and beliefs must be valued without discrimination. After the Rastafarian students have been allowed in schools with their dreadlocks, we (Muslims) now ask the court to review its earlier ruling and allow our girls in schools with the hijab,” added Mr. Ateka.
He also pointed out that Christian students enrolling in Muslim schools are not compelled to wear hijabs, and that the same should apply those Muslim students in non-Muslim schools.