School in Russia's mostly Muslim North Caucasus bars 5 girls over hijab

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A Syrian refugee girl, who fled the violence in he country, stands outside a refugee camp close to the Syrian border, on July 17, 2012. According to the UNHCR, the number of refugees has tripled since April, reaching 110,000 at camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan.

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Khalil Mazraawi

Schools in Russia's Stavropol area are forbidding girls from attending classes while wearing hijab, angering parents and causing the girls as much as two weeks of lost class time, reported The Moscow Times.

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The parents of five girls in the village of Kara-Tyube in Stavropol have filed lawsuits against the school's decision, according to Russia's RIA Novosti. However, reports suggest even more students are not attending class due to a similar restriction or because their parents have pulled them from newly hijab-unfriendly classes in protest. 

The mufti representing the Stavropol area, Muhammad-Haji Rakhimov, told Agence-France Presse today that a number of concerned parents have spoken to him about schools' positions, which he says are something new. 

"There have not been any problems before this month," he said, adding that there are "many girls" in the Stavropol region who are falling behind academically because their parents are unable to afford private schools, reported AFP

Kara-Tyube school officials said the girls were told they could wear a headscarf in class, but were not allowed to put on anything more restrictive, according to local reports. The exact coverage of the hijab varies by believer, but the amount provided by a standard headscarf would not be sufficient for girls from more traditional Muslim families. 

Stavropol, a region The Moscow Times said has a "sizeable Muslim population," is located in Russia's predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region. (That said, it was the only majority-ethnic Russian region to join the newly-formed North Caucasian Federal District two years ago, according to UNHCR.)

Russia’s Education Ministry has supported school administration decisions, according to AFP, adding that local mullahs have roundly denounced the ban. 

Moscow is watchful of possibly volatile religious divisions in the region because it is currently fighting an Islamist insurgency there