The hijab is available for the first time in the uniform department of John Lewis stores in the UK.
The company signed contracts with two schools, one for Muslim girls, and the other educating members of all religions.
The hijab is a headdress worn by Muslim females after puberty that covers the head and chest. The piece is considered a sign of modesty when in the presence of men outside the woman’s immediate family.
The hijab differs from the niqab, which covers the entire face with a veil, allowing the wearer to see through a small mesh screen.
While there has been controversy over whether or not to allow female students to wear the clothing in addition to their school uniforms, Muslim parents are welcoming the new addition. Until now, parents have had to purchase the clothing at specialty shops.
Last year, a debate was called by Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne to discuss whether the veil should be banned from public places as France has decided to do under President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010, suggesting that women were being pressured to wear them.
‘We should be very cautious about imposing religious conformity on a society which has always valued freedom of expression.’
In France, the penalty for wearing the veil is €150 ($198) and “forced instruction on French citizenship.”
Similar bans exist in Barcelona, Spain, as well as a number of cities and towns in Italy.
Most Muslim leaders in the UK rejected his remarks, with Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadan foundation saying “whatever one’s religion they should be free to practice it according to their own choices.”
John Lewis supplies the uniforms to the Islamia Girls’ School in London, a school established in 1983 by Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, a popular folk singer.
The company will also be supplying the hijab for the Belvedere Academy in Liverpool, which was founded 130 years ago as a non-denominational school for girls. Its last rating by Ofsted was “outstanding.”
According to John Lewis, they are simply responding to an increased demand.
A spokesman for the department store said: ‘We provide uniforms for 350 schools across the country. The school informs us of the items they want us to sell as part of their uniform list.’
The company is selling the hijab in London for £9 ($15), alongside a £65 pound teal blazer, and an ankle-length grey skirt for £40. The Liverpool store will offer a cheaper price for the hijab of £6, available in navy or black.
According to the 2011 UK census, Islam was the religion of choice of 4.4% of people living in the UK. While this greatly trailed Christianity (59.5%), no religion (25.7%) and those who chose not to state their religion (7.2%), it was the largest non-Christian religion segment in the country, with “other religion” netting 1.8% and Hinduism 1.3%.