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Kyrgyzstan Bans Head Scarves From Schools

Kyrgyz girls wearing the hijab, or head scarves, in a 2008 photo
BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan has banned head scarves from schools to protect children from religious influence, an education official has said.

"We are a secular state," Education Ministry official Damira Kudaibergenova said on March 3. "Children are coming under a massive attack and we will protect them."

Some pupils have been missing Friday classes due to prayers, she said.

"When the choice is between education and a headscarf we choose education," Kudaibergenova said.

The former Soviet Republic has accused Islamist groups of seeking to overthrow its government.

Last October, police arrested about 100 protesters who took to the streets on a Muslim holiday. Courts found 32 of them guilty of "Islamic extremism."

Public discontent with the government is building up in the nation of 5 million people, which is suffering from energy shortages and the effects of the global financial crisis.