School pupils back Muslim classmate targeted over headscarf

Secondary school students in Teplice have launched a campaign in support of a Muslim classmate under pressure for wearing a headscarf. The school’s principal has received dozens of emails calling for her expulsion for “promoting Islam” but says the teenager is going nowhere.

Eman Ghaleb, photo: archive of Eman GhalebEman Ghaleb, photo: archive of Eman Ghaleb Seventeen-year-old Eman Ghaleb, whose family moved from Yemen 13 years ago, goes to secondary school in Teplice, a North Bohemian spa town with a sizable Muslim minority.

Recently the school’s principal has received dozens of emails from people demanding that the 17-year-old be expelled for wearing a headscarf.

A letter from a Czech who doesn’t want their “children threatened by Islam” that has been shared on Facebook claims that Ghaleb promotes her faith on social networks and in the media.

This appears to be a reference to her involvement in a campaign last year encouraging Arab visitors to keep Teplice tidy.

Now the girl’s classmates have put together a video campaign in her support. Among them is Tomáš Kučera, who is 15.

“We want to use this video to show that we students see things differently than those activists who are bombarding our director. We want to make it clear that we are in contact with Eman, that we know she’s a Muslim, and that this doesn’t bother us. We take her as she is and don’t regard her as any kind of danger.”

On her own Facebook page Eman Ghaleb writes the following:

Illustrative photo: Ruth Livingstone / freeimagesIllustrative photo: Ruth Livingstone / freeimages “As regards my headscarf, for me it’s not a religious symbol but something that is part of me and my identity. I repeat that if there were a law in the Czech Republic against it or if the school management decided to ban covering oneself in school, I would respect it. Until that time I will follow the path of freedom, which I respect and think is the most important thing for mankind.”

School head Zdeněk Bergman says he has no intention of expelling the girl and describes the campaign against her as irrational.

“If anything this girl behaves in a very positive manner here in the school and in the town. She contributes to peaceful coexistence with the Arab community here. Islam isn’t promoted here in any way. People have argued for her expulsion by saying she’s broken the school rules. She hasn’t.”

While the video has yet to be released, supporters of Eman Ghaleb have been posting photos of themselves also wearing headscarves.