DHAKA // Bangladesh's High Court ordered the government to ensure women will not be forced to wear burqas at educational institutions after one college was reported to have barred females from entering without the veil. The court issued a similar order in April, but Sunday's ruling took the law a step further by stating that no kind of religious attire could not be imposed, including Islamic skull caps worn by males.
The ruling followed a recent report in a Bengali-language newspaper that the Rani Bhabani Women's College in northern Bangladesh demanded women wear burqas. The college also had barred them from playing school sports and attending cultural activities, it was reported. High Court judges AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury and Sheikh Mohammad Zakir Hossain also told the government to take action against the college's administrator for imposing the restrictions.
Calls to the school's office were unanswered yesterday. Most institutions are closed in Bangladesh because of Ramadan. Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation of 150 million people, is ruled by secular laws, but some groups and political parties campaign for Sharia. Schools usually encourage secular values but many female students in thousands of Islamic schools wear burqas. Mahbub Shafique, a lawyer, petitioned the court about the incident after reading the news report. He said yesterday that Bangladeshi law stipulates that wearing the burqa is a matter of personal choice and it cannot be forced by authorities.
Some Bangladeshis welcomed the court's ruling. "I don't need to wear burqa; why should I?" said Anika Yasmin, 26, who works for a travel agency in Dhaka, the capital. "My education and my personality are more than enough, not a burqa." * Associated Press