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See it in both directions

Friday, June 1, 2018
Archbishop on hijab controversy:
Archbishop Jason Gordon

The refusal to allow hijab wearing on-the-job trainee Nafisah Nakhid to train at the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College has only been seen in one direction.

This was the view shared yesterday by Archbishop Jason Gordon as he weighed in on Nakhid’s issue at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port-of-Spain, after yesterday’s Corpus Christi procession which began at the Queen’s Park Savannah.

Yesterday, in sharing his thoughts on the matter, Gordon said as T&T approached 56 years independence, the nation has not decided the kind of society “we want to be.”

He said what was needed was a deep discourse among citizens on how to live in unity and diversity, which would no doubt take some time and work to achieve.

Gordon said if a Catholic child goes into a Muslim school with a cross exposed, it would not sit well with the school.

Similarly, he said, if a teacher goes to a Muslim or Hindu school with their cross exposed and rosary in their hands, professing to be a Catholic and Christian, they would not be happy in that environment either.

Gordon said he heard one thing, which he could not confirm, that Nakhid was asked if she would be okay going into the Hindu school as an OJT.

“If that is true…that is good. But I don’t think that the Hindu organisation was asked if it was okay for the woman to come in (the school) with the hijab. If we are going to be fair, let us be fair to everybody, please. We have to build a better society than this and these are the issues that creates the tension. We have to be fair right around.”

He said the problem with the hijab was seen in one direction.

“We have to see it in both directions at this time. Then we will have equality and diversity. That is the meaning of trinity—unity in diversity. But that doesn’t mean everybody looks the same way,” he added.

He added; “We have been asked to accept the young woman with the hijab. The Hindus are being asked the same thing. But they need to understand that they need to accept children with a cross on them too…and praying with the rosary at lunch time in Asja Girls’ and in all of the schools. It has to be equal.”

During a TV programme last week, president general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Sat Maharaj revoked the SDMS’s invitation to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to deliver the feature address at its Indian Arrival Day function in Debe.

Maharaj’s anger towards Persad-Bissessar was in response to her condemnation of the Maha Sabha school board’s refusal to allow Nakhid the opportunity to train at the college because she wore a hijab.

Persad-Bissessar had urged the school’s board to reconsider its decision and called on Education Minister Anthony Garcia and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to move swiftly to resolve the matter.

Despite Maharaj’s comments against her, Persad-Bissessar said she still respects him and holds no malice towards him.

While some Catholic schools in the past have prohibited Rastafarians and hijab-wearing students from entering their compounds, Gordon felt that an adjustment to the Concordat would not help.

“I am not sure why everybody wants to go back to the Concordat because I don’t think they have read it. If they read the Concordat they would understand that this is a legal document regulating the relationship between the State and all boards of schools.”

He said the problem was not in the Concordat, but the kind of society we want to become by living together and how our religious symbols will be accepted in each other’s space.

“Then I think we have something to work with and that does not need a review of the Concordat. That needs an understanding of a kind of society.”

Gordon said if we can achieve this, other things will settle down.


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