The relationship between Vladimir Putin and his biggest Muslim fan, the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, may have soured after Russia banned headscarves in education for both teachers and pupils.

 

The controversial move was challenged by Muslim groups but Russia's highest court has now backed the minister and the rule banning teachers and students from wearing Muslim headscarves came into force at the end of 2016.

 

Russia’s Education and Science Minister Olga Vasilyeva said that Russian education should be "secular", saying: "I don’t think that true believers try to showcase their faith with items such as headscarves."

 

It means that staff and students are prohibited from wearing a hijab in class after a two-year fight in the courts but it has infuriated Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

 

He said: "My three daughters are all schoolgirls, and they wear a hijab in school and are doing pretty well. Yet now Olga Vasileva demands that they have to take the hijab off? I can say now that they will never do that."

 

He said that article 28 of the Russian constitution guarantees the freedom of thought and religious belief and added: "Maybe nobody bothered to read this article, but the headscarf is an important part of a Muslim's clothing. I would suggest that the minister concentrates on other more serious problems such as drug addicts, drunks, criminals and paedophiles and stops worrying about the hijab."

 

There was anger elsewhere over the ban as well. One teacher at a school in the Mordovian village of Belozerye refused to work under such conditions, claiming she would never attend a class if she was unable to wear a headscarf.

 

As well as banning the traditional Muslim wear, lawmakers also prohibited school goers from wearing jeans, miniskirts and piercings as well as any other "religious clothing regardless of faith."

 

Opposing teachers and students banded together to take their fight to the Supreme Court in 2015 but judges backed the ban, much to the protestors' disappointment.

 

Teachers and students took the issue to Russia’s Supreme Court in 2015, but judges ruled that there was no legal reason to drop the ban.

CEN