LONDON – A Muslim teenager has become the first woman to speak in the House of Commons while wearing a headscarf (hijab).
"If it's true then it's amazing,” Sumaiya Karim, 16, told the Press Association.
“Wearing the hijab was my own choice. It's a choice that I made a few years ago when I found the hijab."
Karim, from Wokingham, west London, spoke during the Youth Parliament, which held its annual session in the House of Commons.
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Standing at the despatch box, the young Muslim addressed the meeting on giving children a greater say over the content of the national curriculum.
"Today was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said the Muslim teenager, who studies biology, chemistry, maths and history at A-level.
British ministers and opposition shadow ministers stand at the despatch boxes when they address the Commons.
The democratically elected Youth Parliament members, aged 11 to 18, are elected to present the views of young people in their areas to the government.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
Britain is home to a Muslim minority of 2.5 million.
In her speech, the Muslim teenager called for forming a youth committee to review the national curriculum.
“Our national curriculum is such an important issue,” the veiled student said.
“We live in such a diverse society and it's important that we are more culturally aware,” said Karim, who wants to become a surgeon before embarking on a political career later in life.
The British Muslim said more focus should be given in national curriculum on political education, as well as relationship advice.
"What does it mean when I say that I am dating someone? What's commitment? What impact does having a baby have on my life?” she asked.
"What's parliament? How do I get through uni? What's a cash ISA? And more importantly why does my favourite chocolate bar as a kid go from 10p, to 15p, to 17p, and now ridiculously 20p?"
“These are questions that need answers. Parliament isn't just a building, it's the mother of all democracies. There are financial education schemes available but not for the whole of the UK population.
"Some people in this country are fortunate enough to have access to political knowledge through their teaching but again that is only some.
"If we live in the same country, we have the same rights, should we not have access to the same teaching?"
At the end of their debate, the youngsters voted to make national curriculum reform their campaign for the coming year.Only 23 members voted to keep public transport as the issue for the youth parliament, whilst 154 voted in favor of making the national curriculum the campaign for the year.
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