Today my oldest daughter, Tasneem, was supposed to have her interview for the Indiana University high school honors program in France. It's a summer program where the kids live with a family and go to several hours of french class each day -- very competitive and pretty prestigious at least in state.
Well, when I picked her up from tennis practice (she's joined the tennis team at high school), I asked her how the interview went, and she said, she didn't really have it. Apparently the interviewer asked about her scarf, and told her that she wouldn't be able to go if she intended to wear her scarf -- it was against program rules. She also said that if she went, she wouldn't be able to go to the mosque for the six weeks she would be in France, and that she would have to pray silently, in her room, not out loud. Tasneem told her that she wasn't going to stop wearing the scarf, and the interviewer told her that if something changed over the next year (ie she stopped wearing the scarf) she could reapply then.
Needless to say, I am totally shocked. Last I checked it was illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of religion, especially at state funded universities.
I wonder if the woman told Catholics they couldn't go to mass while they were in France. Or advised Sikh students that they need not apply if they wear turbans, or jewish students if they wear yarmulkes.
To be fair, I've only heard Tasneem's side, but she is being very non-inflammatory about it (I'm the one upset, not her) and I think she's presented it pretty much straight up about how the conversation went. Also to be fair, we got a call from Tasneem's French teacher who was shocked at the reported conversation and planning to follow up. Needless to say, I also will be calling the program director tomorrow.
Iunderstand it is a bit tricky now, with the ban on hijab in public schools. But this is a university program sponsored by a US university. And in France they are not going to a school. The facility is a private conference center. So the hijab ban wouldn't apply at all. And it's a university program, and the ban is on elementary, jr highs and high schools, not universities. So again it wouldn't apply.
Sigh. This is really the last thing I need, or my kids need. I really, really don't want them to become bitter or alienated from American society. But if they are disqualified from programs at American universities solely because of their religious practice, I'm afraid that is exactly what will happen.