A rift was created when a group of teachers started wearing the abaya to work at Shanmuga Hindu Ladies College (SHLC), a school where all female teachers wore a saree. Sri Lankan Muslim women had a long tradition of wearing a saree, with one end used to cover their head, until some returning home after working in the Middle East introduced the abaya. The muslim teachers filed a fundamental rights case and they won, but If tensions were not high enough, the teachers appealed to force SHLC to let them back in to the school whose traditions they just turned upside down.
As Prof. Ameer Ai points out they should have backed down and requested a transfer to another school, in the name of the larger issue of racial harmony.
“Having won the case and proved their point had those teachers respected the traditions of SHLC, and voluntarily got transferred to another school, the dispute would have been solved amicably and without acrimony. Our heroines would have saved not only their personal honour but also that of their community. Finally, the whole episode demonstrates a total failure of leadership on both sides.”
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