Thursday 26 November 2015

KENYA: Pope Urged To Intervene For Muslim Students In Catholic Schools

The Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) has appealed to Pope Francis to help address what it termed as lack of freedom of worship for Muslim students in schools run by the Catholic church.

The council's National chairman Sheikh Ibrahim Ateka said Wednesday that Muslim students in Catholic-run schools in Kenya are often compelled to attend church services against their will, or prevented from praying in the Islamic way.

He added that the students are usually prevented from covering their hair with the Muslim headscarf (hijab) as enjoined by their religion.

“Addressing those issues will go a long way in enhancing good relations between the Muslim and Catholic communities in Kenya.

Currently, the issues are a source of unnecessary friction," he said. Sheikh Ateka noted that the denial of the rights of Muslim students in catholic-run schools is rife and are not just isolated incidents.

He cited the recent suspension of all Muslim students from Bura Girls High School in Taita-taveta County for allegedly failing to attend church service.

’’Compelling the Muslim students to attend church services and observe Christian way of worship is contrary to the constitution and contravenes the rights of Muslim students to manifest their faith as stipulated in the constitution,’’ Ateka said.

He appealed to the Pope to advice the Catholic Church leadership in the country to uphold the freedom of worship for Muslim students in Catholic-run schools.

Catholic leaders have in the past defended their policy of requiring all students including Muslims to attend church services in Catholic-run schools saying it is part of school regulations.

But critics have termed the regulations as unconstitutional claiming they go against freedom of worship.

The critics add that since Catholic schools are partly supported by public funds, they are bound to uphold the rights of all their students regardless of religion.

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