Parents picket Bangladesh school for 'un-Islamic' dresscode

Bangladeshi students wait to receive free textbooks in Dhaka on January 1, 2019 (AFP Photo/Indranil MUKHERJEE)

Hundreds of parents picketed a top Bangladesh school and blocked a major road in the capital to protest against a decision to make Islamic dress optional for students.

Some 200-300 parents held hands and blocked a road in front of an Ideal School and College campus in Dhaka's Banasree neighbourhood on Wednesday, said local police chief Abdul Kuddus.

Ideal is one of the country's best private school chains, with branches in several middle-class neighbourhoods. Its students regularly top nationwide exam tables.

Parents said the school this year dropped a requirement for boys to wear Islamic skull caps and for girls to wear an "orna", a loose scarf-like shawl that covers the chest.

"It has been a tradition of this school since 1973 and we don't have any problem with it," said Tofazzal Hossain, a parent.

"Why did the authorities suddenly take such an anti-Islamic decision without discussing it with us?"

College principal Shahan Ara Begum said neither item of clothing had been banned, but rather made optional.

She said also that Muslim traditions should not be forced on pupils belonging to other faiths.

Although overwhelming Muslim, Bangladesh is officially secular.

Thousands of people took to social media to criticise the school's new dress code.

"How would the female students go in front of their male teachers without the orna?" Facebook user Shipon Ahmed wrote.