A Spanish Muslim student whose ban from a training institute for wearing the headscarf caused controversy said on Tuesday that she has finally been allowed to study with the hijab after regional authorities weighed in.
While the issue has been a subject of debate in Spain, there is currently no law banning any kind of veil in public places – not even the face-covering burka or niqab like in neighbouring France.
The exclusion of Takwa Rejeb from class generated unease in a country where Muslims represent around four percent of the 46.5-million-strong population.
"I am more than happy because the only thing I wanted was to exercise my right to study," said Rejeb, 23, born in the eastern city of Valencia of Tunisian parents. "I am not a circus freak, I'm a person like any other, a student," she told journalists.
The anti-discrimination SOS Racisme association brought Rejeb's case to light after she was refused access to lessons at the Benlliure professional training institute in Valencia on 8 September.
According to lawyer Francisco Solans, the association's regional president, the institute had asked her to apply internal rules that ban any student from coming in "with their head covered", be it a cap, hat or headscarf. Management at the institute refused to comment on Tuesday.
Faced with the controversy sparked by her case, the regional government of Valencia forced the institute to allow Rejeb in. In a statement, it said education authorities had "guaranteed the right to education of students and she will be able to go to all lessons with the hijab."
Solans told journalists it was a "victory for the recognition of constitutional freedoms and rights – freedom of expression, freedom of religion as long as public order is respected, the right to education and to equality."
He said there had also been similar cases elsewhere "that were resolved through mediation."