The Oregon House of Representatives has voted to remove an 87-year ban on teachers wearing religious attire such as an Islamic headscarf, or hijab. While Islamic organizations applauded the move, others have criticized it for its potential implications.
House Bill 3686 passed by 51-8, taking the state a step closer to removing the ban, subject to a vote by the senate. If both houses approve the legislation, religious clothing will be prohibited only in Nebraska and Pennsylvania.
Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the vote was a "victory for religious freedom in the workplace."
"When this legislation takes effect, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh teachers will no longer be forced to choose between their faith and their chosen profession," said Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of CAIR’s Washington state chapter.
However, opponents of the law, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, have expressed concerns about the rights of students, especially elementary school pupils, to be free from "religious indoctrination," according to The Oregonian.
Similar debates continue throughout the Western world. For example, France banned students from wearing headscarves on university campuses, and there are plans to outlaw the full Islamic veil, or burqa, on the grounds that it infringes on women’s freedom and dignity.