AN ANGRY mob of Muslims parents converged on a school in Blackburn, Lancashire, this week to demand the sacking of a secretary they believed was a man in a hijab.
According to this report, the target of their outrage was Shifa Patel, whose woes began when photographs of her with short hair and wearing a shirt and trousers were spotted on the social networking site Facebook.
The pictures were then circulated among pupils at Al-Islah Muslim Girls’ School by email before it reached parents.
When Fatima Patel, the acting head teacher, heard the gossip, she sent a letter reassuring parents of Miss Patel’s gender. The secretary even underwent a medical examination to prove she was female and quell the rumours.
But when an angry mob of parents gathered at the school gates attempting to force their way in and demanding she be sacked, the secretary decided to hand in her resignation and the head also decided to quit in protest.
Miss Patel, who is 28, said:
I will never forgive those who did this to me and spread these lies. I have irrefutable medical evidence that I’m a woman. The people who have done this to me have hurt me so badly.
In some of the pictures Miss Patel is pictured alongside the acting headteacher.
Fatima Patel said:
When some parents approached me I said to them I will take the Quran in my hand and swear to tell the truth. But they were more concerned with getting a GP’s certificate for Shifa. What does that say about some people?
This incident has affected me and Shifa and it will take a lot to get her confidence back. We must add that some parents have come and supported us.
The private school has nearly 200 students and occupies the first floor of a red-brick mosque in Blackburn.
It was established in 1995 by parents who were concerned about the state school environment and the effect it might have on their children.
The vast majority of pupils are girls, but some boys are admitted at primary level. All students must adhere to a strict uniform code.
Music is viewed as un-Islamic and GCSE students are taught Islamic studies, rather than religious education, and Arabic and Urdu instead of modern European languages.
According to a report of the incident in the Daily Mail, the Â£1,000-a-year independent school, claims to:
Nurture the intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual growth of Muslim children with the hope of producing confident, competent individuals who can go out into British society and contribute positively without compromising their beliefs and practices.
Sergeant John Rigby, of Lancashire Constabulary’s minority team, said:
Police were called to the school after reports that people were trying to damage school doors. When we arrived a group of 10 to 15 people were outside the school. This is an entirely internal school matter and police were simply there to calm the situation down.
Nizamuddin Makda, 57, was one of the school’s founder members and its headteacher until January last year. He employed Shifa Patel as an administrator in 2003.
He said the photographs showed her with short hair in “manly clothes behaving like a man”.