New Government guidelines spelling out the right of headteachers to ban pupils from wearing religious dress such as the Islamic veil are "simply shocking", a British Muslim leader said.
Education Secretary Alan Johnson has drawn up the updated guidance after a 12-year-old girl lost a legal battle to wear the full-face niqab in class in her Buckinghamshire school last month.
A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills stressed that the Government was not imposing a blanket ban on veils at schools, and any decision on uniform policy was a matter for individual headteachers.
But Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said he felt "dismayed" at the guidelines.
He said: "Successive ministers dealing with education issues have failed to give proper guidance when requested by human rights campaigners about schools' obligations regarding religious dress, including the head scarf, and other service delivery under human rights laws and norms.
To now proceed to issue guidance against Muslim communities is simply shocking."
The new guidelines issued on Tuesday will also warn schools they must not force parents to buy over-priced uniforms for their children.
The DFES spokesman said that headteachers have always been in a position to set their school's uniform policy, and this remains the case under the new guidelines.
The new document states that schools should consult widely with parents, governors and the local community on uniform policy relating to religious dress.
Where possible, they should try to tolerate a wide range of religious and cultural items of clothing. But they may ban certain garments, such as the full-face veil, if it is felt that they impede safety, security or the ability to learn.
The DFES is not ordering or advising headteachers to ban the veil, but is confirming that they have the ability to do so if they wish, so long as they carry out proper consultation, the spokesman said. Headteachers will be told they will face action from the Office of Fair Trading if they impose unfair uniform policies on families.
There is an Islamic Human Rights Commission? That has got to be a joke! If this Commission really values human rights, then why does it not speak out the harassment and persecution against Christians, Hindus and Jews in the Islamic world by the mad mullahs and insane imams sponsored by governments such as the royal family of Saudi Arabia? When this Commission speaks out in the defence of non-Muslims' human rights, then I will pay more attention to the Commission complaints about the human rights of Muslims being violated.