CAIRO - Five Muslim girls have been denied right to learn after a head teacher of a school in Russia's North Caucasus region banned them from attending classes while wearing a hijab.
That is unacceptable in our religion, Ravil Kaibaliyev, the father of one of the children told Izvestia daily newspaper.
The problem erupted a week ago at a school in the village of Kara-Tyube in Russia's southern Stavropol region.
Though several Muslim girls of different ages were allowed to attend their school in September while donning hijab, they were told later that they would not be allowed to enter the school unless they took off their hijabs.
School principal Marina Savchenko defended the decision, saying that wearing a hijab violates school policy, which requires students to attend classes in secular clothes.
We didn't insist that the girls shouldn't wear hijab at all, but suggested they replace it with a headscarf while during the school classes, she told Izvestia.
Russia's Education Ministry backed the school's administration, saying that schools are allowed to adopt their own regulations regarding uniform and rules of conduct.
This argument was rejected by Russian children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov who said that the school in Kara-Tyube is clearly overreacting.
There are no common rules regarding pupils' appearance, Astakhov said, adding that in Western countries, similar conflicts are usually resolved in favor of tolerance.
And a hijab in this case is not some indecent item.
Rejecting the decision, Kaibaliyev, along with other parents, filed complaints at the district prosecutor's office, complaining that the school had violated their constitutional rights to education and freedom of religion.
The prosecutor promised to issue a legal assessment of the incident within 30 days, and to take appropriate measures if the school's headmaster was found to have broken the law.
The hijab ban won flaks from Russian Muslim scholars for violating the right of Muslim students to practice religion.
In a heavily Muslim district girls are not allowed to attend schools in headscarves. Parents of the Muslim girls do not let the girls attend schools without scarves, the spokesperson of the muftis in Neftekumsk district of Stavropol said in a statement cited by RIA Novosti.
The muftis expressed their concerns about the girls' academic performance, warning that the weakness in the school program will lead the custodial agency to intervene.
The parents emphasize that in general teachers do not discriminate the girls on their religion, the spokesman said.
But they are following the instructions of higher authorities.
The muftis' council noted this was the sixth group of parents who had addressed them with such a complaint. Residents of the Arzgirsk and Step districts filed the same complaint.
I would like to speak about the shortsightedness of our officials who demonstrate religious intolerance, the statement said.
For example, about 3,000 people, mostly Muslims, mostly ethnic Nogais and Dagestanis live in the village of Karatub.
Mufti of Stavropol Muhammad Rakhimov addressed the heads of districts, the governor and prosecutor of the Stavropol to help resolve the situation.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
The Russian Federation is home to some 23 million Muslims in the north of the Caucasus and southern republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
Islam is Russia's second-largest religion representing roughly 15 percent of its 145 million predominantly Orthodox population.