Published February 18, 2009
A Pennsylvania high school is permitting Muslim students to wear scarves known as kaffiyehs in school just a day after ordering two students to remove them for class.
Gateway High School officials met with parents Wednesday after seniors Mohammad Al-Abbasi, 18, and Ahmad Al-Sadr, 17, left school Tuesday after refusing to take off the checkered scarves, believed by some to be a symbol of terrorism.
District spokeswoman Cara Zanella told FOXNews.com the ban was an attempt to diffuse tension between Jewish and Muslim students, after three students wore shirts to school saying "RIP Israel."
The students removed the shirts when ordered to do so but the incident led to a petition from Jewish students saying they felt threatened, Zanella said.
A student then wrote an article in one of the local newspapers about Muslim dress, reportedly caling the scarves "hate" clothing.
"As a result then the tensions started to escalate between the two factions," Zanella said. "So the principal went back to the students and said, 'We're trying to get everyone on the same page here. Could you agree not to wear the scarves for the time being because the tensions are escalating?'"
The students agreed and complied until the incident Tuesday.
In response the principal gathered the students in question Wednesday along with parents, school officials and a number of faith based organizations to find a resolution to the matter.
"It was agreed upon today in the meeting that the students would be allowed to wear the scarves," Zanella said. "They also wanted the students to speak in a group session with one another — the 35 Jewish students that signed the letter to the principal, the students who were wearing the scarves, and the student that did the article."
That meeting was also held Wednesday morning and Zanella said "everyone came out of the meeting with a new sense of respect for the different cultures."
"I think everyone there recognized there's some tensions in the school and also amongst the community,” Al-Abbas’s mother Loretta Riggs told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “We recognize the need for further education and further dialogue. We were very happy that the school district acknowledged this. They're willing to hold such future dialogues."