World Bulletin / News Desk
President Vladimir Putin spoke out Thursday against the wearing of headscarves in Russian schools in his first public comment on a potentially explosive issue.
Putin's statement follows a recent incident in Russia's southern region of Stavropol during which a school principal forbade girls from Muslim families from wearing headscarves to class.
Asked to comment on the issue, Putin clearly voiced his opposition to headscarves at schools, saying that Russia is a secular state and must create equal conditions for all its citizens.
At the same time, Putin sought to calm passions raised by the dispute, saying that authorities must show a due respect to followers of all religions.
"We have a secular state, and we must proceed from that," Putin said at a meeting with supporters.
An estimated 20 million of Russia's 143 million people are Muslims, and they make up the majority of the population in many regions, including the oil-rich province of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, as well as Chechnya and neighboring provinces in the volatile North Caucasus.
If the dispute over headscarves escalates in Russia, it could fuel tensions between the federal government and Chechnya and other Muslim-dominated provinces.
Putin said Thursday that one possible way out of the headscarves dispute would be the introduction of school uniforms.Last Mod: 21 Ekim 2012, 09:30