Lancashire

Bearded Muslim pupil at Accrington school allowed to return

One of two teenage boys taken out of a school after refusing to shave off their beards is allowed to return to school on Monday.

The 14-year-old Muslim pupils at Mount Carmel Roman Catholic High School in Accrington said it was part of their faith to keep their facial hair.

Governors said one boy could return after talks with Muslim leaders, but the policy has not changed.

The case of the second boy is unresolved.

Muslim boys only

Lancashire County Council said the boys had been sent home on Tuesday, but could return to school once they had shaved.

The teenagers had been placed in isolation for a month previously because they had failed to comply with rules about appearance.

The two pupils were part of a group of students told in June they must remove their facial hair before they returned for the new term.

A third Muslim student who had a moustache was also barred from the classroom, but he shaved and returned to his classes.

Mount Carmel head teacher Xavier Bowers said in a statement: "[There] will be no change to the school rule which requires boys to be clean shaven.

"However, following discussions with leaders of the local community, exemptions will be made in certain clearly-defined circumstances."

He also said the school had to comply to the European Convention of Human Rights, which states all schools must make reasonable adjustments to school uniform on genuine religious grounds.

Mr Bowers said the Bishop of Salford advised governors to work with the Islamic community and "support boys who are genuinely and fully committed to their faith".

He said: "With this in mind and in line with European Human Rights legislation, governors have taken the decision to only allow Muslim boys permission to grow a beard as a sign of their faith as long as they have started the Hafiz programme at a mosque."

Hafiz is a programme involving attending a mosque for up to three hours a day to pray and learn the Quran.

Lancashire county councillor for Accrington West Munsif Dad said: "I'm very glad that we are moving in the right direction and I'd like to thank the head teacher and governors for their understanding and co-operation."

About a third of the 750 pupils at the school are Muslim.

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