Roman Catholic secondary schools in Ireland have imposed a ban on Muslim girls covering their faces with a full veil.

Teachers have been told in guidelines that Muslims would not be permitted to wear the niqab, the garment covering the entire body except for slits across the eyes. The guidance, circulated in Ireland by bishops among more than 450 schools this week, said that although staff should respect the religious rights of non-Catholics, it was "unsatisfactory for a teacher not to be able to see and engage properly with a pupil whose face was covered".

"No pupil or staff member should be prevented from wearing a religious symbol or garment in accordance with their tradition, for example, the hijab [headscarf] for Muslim girls and the turban for Sikh boys," said the document called "Guidelines on the Inclusion of Students of Other Faiths in Catholic Secondary Schools".

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