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Russian Supreme Court Upholds Head-Scarf Ban In Mordovia's Schools

The Russian Supreme Court has upheld a ban on head scarves for schoolgirls in the Mordovia region, setting a precedent on a divisive issue.

The court on February 11 rejected an appeal filed by Mufti Fagim Shafiyev, the senior Muslim cleric in Mordovia, who had urged the Supreme Court to reverse a ruling by Mordovia's top court that upheld a ban imposed last year by the regional government.

Shafiyev said the ban on head scarves at schools is "discriminatory" and violates the rights of Muslim Tatars who make up some 5 percent of Mordovia's population.

The Supreme Court rejected his appeal, ruling that the decision "to ban head scarves for girls in secondary schools must be left without changes."

President Vladimir Putin's government has struggled to find a balance between the interests of Russia's large Muslim minority and concerns about potentially explosive rifts between ethnic and religious groups in the huge, diverse nation.

There is no nationwide ban, but the North Caucasus region of Stavropol -- which borders provinces plagued by an Islamist insurgency stemming from post-Soviet separatist wars in Chechnya -- banned head scarves for schoolgirls in 2012.

Muslims make up an estimated 14 percent of the population of predominantly Orthodox Christian Russia.

Based on reporting by TASS, and Interfax