In Sri Lanka, hijab-clad teachers hounded from Christian school are assigned elsewhere

A student's bag is searched by a parent as he arrives at his school which opened days after a string of suicide bomb attacks across the island on Easter Sunday, in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, on May 6, 2019. (REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui)
Updated 09 May 2019

In Sri Lanka, hijab-clad teachers hounded from Christian school are assigned elsewhere

  • Salley told Arab News that appropriate measures would be taken against those involved in what he described as an “unfortunate incident

COLOMBO: Eleven Muslim teachers hounded from a Christian school in Sri Lanka for wearing hijabs have been redeployed.

The country’s Western Province Gov. Azath Salley was forced to intervene in the row after the women were barred on Tuesday from entering the Puwakpitiya Tamil Maha Vidyalaya school, located about 30 km from the capital Colombo.

Parent members of the school’s development society along with former students blocked the teachers’ entry to the premises, telling them they would only be allowed back in if they were dressed in saris.

The group’s action came in response to the devastating Easter Sunday bombings of hotels and churches in Sri Lanka, which left 268 people dead and hundreds injured. Daesh has since claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Following the blasts, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena imposed a ban on the wearing of niqabs to allow security officials to more easily identify people, but no restrictions were placed on the abaya (a robe-like dress) or hijab.

Speaking on behalf of the banned teachers, Fathima Shafeena told Arab News that she had worked at the school for more than six years and felt humiliated over her treatment. She said: “Hijab is my traditional Islamic attire and they cannot ask me to replace it with the sari,” adding that the move was a violation of their human rights.

Fathima Afrah, another teacher, said she and her fellow Muslim tutors were chased off the premises in full view of schoolchildren and other teaching colleagues, and she could never return there out of sheer embarrassment. “Although it was a non-Muslim school, I did not show any discrimination while I was teaching in the classrooms,” she added.

Salley summoned senior provincial education officials to an urgent meeting with the teachers on Tuesday afternoon, which resulted in them being transferred to other schools in the province.

Puwakpitiya Tamil Maha Vidyalaya principal, P. Manoharan, told Arab News that the school had 800 children and 41 teachers, and about 35 percent of the students were Christians. He said that he had no prior knowledge of the protest action.

Salley told Arab News that appropriate measures would be taken against those involved in what he described as an “unfortunate incident.”

“The teachers’ dresses were proper and in accordance with government regulations. The government has banned only the niqab face cover,” the governor said. He pointed out that the abaya and hijab were well within the accepted norms.

In a landmark ruling in April last year, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) recommended that “preventing teachers from wearing the abaya while performing their duties” was a violation of the Sri Lankan constitution.

The HRCSL stated that national schools were bound by the constitution and could not violate the absolute right to religious freedom. It reiterated the need for respect for diversity and pluralism in the multi-ethnic and multi-religious country.


Hackers attempt to take down UK Labour Party’s web services ahead of election

Updated 12 November 2019

Hackers attempt to take down UK Labour Party’s web services ahead of election

  • Britain’s security agencies have warned that Russia and other countries could use cyberattacks messages on social media to attempt to disrupt the election
  • The nature of such attacks often made it difficult to attribute responsibility to any particular group, a NCSC spokesman said

LONDON: Hackers attacked Britain’s opposition Labour Party, bombarding its web services with malicious traffic in an attempt to force them offline just weeks ahead of a national election, party and security officials said on Tuesday,
“We have experienced a sophisticated and large-scale cyberattack on Labour digital platforms,” Labour said in a statement. “We took swift action and these attempts failed due to our robust security systems.
The party was confident data breach occurred, it said.
Britain’s security agencies have warned that Russia and other countries could use cyberattacks or political messages on social media to attempt to disrupt the Dec. 12 election.
Moscow has repeatedly denied Western allegations of election interference and a person with knowledge of the matter said an initial investigation had found nothing to link the Labour Party attack to a foreign state.
Britain’s National Cyber Security Center, part of the GCHQ signals intelligence agency, said the attack was a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack — a technique used by hackers to take down websites by overwhelming them with malicious traffic.
“DDoS attacks are a common form of attack used by a very wide range of attackers. Mitigation techniques are available and worked in this case,” a NCSC spokesman said.
The nature of such attacks often made it difficult to attribute responsibility to any particular group, he said.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the attack was very serious but was successfully repelled by the party’s defense systems when the digital assault began on Monday.
“But if this is a sign of things to come in this election, I feel very nervous about it all,” he said. “Because a cyberattack against a political party in an election is suspicious and something one is very worried about.”
A Labour spokesman said that while the attack had slowed down some campaign activity, they were restored on Tuesday.
The person with knowledge of the matter said any Labour Party web services currently offline were not directly connected to the attack.
Britain goes to the polls on Dec. 12 in an election called by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to try to break the Brexit deadlock in parliament more than three years since the country voted to leave the European Union.
A report by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has investigated Russian activity in British politics and reportedly includes charges of spying and interference in polls, including the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2017 national election.
The government, however, has declined to publish it before the upcoming election.