School renames ‘mufti day’ with ‘be yourself day’ after concerns the term is culturally insensitive

A school has renamed its ‘mufti day’ to ‘be yourself day’ after concerns the colloquial use of the Arabic word was culturally insensitive. 

Heretaunga College, in Upper Hutt, New Zealand, held its first ‘be yourself day’ last Tuesday after asking senior students to research whether ‘mufti’ was outdated. 

Assistant Principal Matthew Lambert said while no formal complaints had been made over the use of the term, last year’s head girl had questioned its appropriateness. 

He said after hearing whispers other schools were planning to abandon the term, three head students were asked to research its origins and report their findings.  

Heretaunga College - located in Upper Hutt, New Zealand - held its first 'be yourself day' last Tuesday after extensive research deemed the term 'mufti' to be culturally insensitive

Heretaunga College - located in Upper Hutt, New Zealand - held its first 'be yourself day' last Tuesday after extensive research deemed the term 'mufti' to be culturally insensitive

Heretaunga College – located in Upper Hutt, New Zealand – held its first ‘be yourself day’ last Tuesday after extensive research deemed the term ‘mufti’ to be culturally insensitive

‘They came back with some pretty interesting things. Some links with Islam and things like that, definitions of the word from back in the past and obviously what it means now as well as their own summary of the whole scenario,’ Mr Lambert told the NZ Herald

The school’s executive group then discovered a Spinoff article where University of Canterbury historian Kate Pickles detailed mufti day’s colonial origin. 

The historian revealed how off-duty British military leaders in India during the 19th century would wear the clothing of local Muslim clerics to mock them. 

The adoption of the clothing led to the British Army using the word mufti to describe their days out of uniform, which was later picked up by the British school system.  

Promotional posters and a post on the college's instagram (pictured) alerted students to the newly named 'be yourself day'

Promotional posters and a post on the college's instagram (pictured) alerted students to the newly named 'be yourself day'

Promotional posters and a post on the college’s instagram (pictured) alerted students to the newly named ‘be yourself day’

After months of consideration the college’s Principal and executive group voted to ditch the Arabic word for good, deciding it could be offensive to staff and students. 

Promotional posters put up around the school and a post on the college’s Instagram alerted students to the newly named ‘be yourself day’.

Students were asked to bring a $2 donation for the non-uniform day, with half of the proceeds donated to the Te Pa Manawa Shelter Britannia House in Petone.

Head boy Cameron Prince said there had been a mixed response from Heretaunga students, but overall his fellow classmates had accepted the change. 

Assistant Principal of Heretaunga College (pictured) Matthew Lambert said 'be yourself day' was encouraging staff and students to express themselves more creatively

Assistant Principal of Heretaunga College (pictured) Matthew Lambert said 'be yourself day' was encouraging staff and students to express themselves more creatively

Assistant Principal of Heretaunga College (pictured) Matthew Lambert said ‘be yourself day’ was encouraging staff and students to express themselves more creatively

‘A lot of people don’t understand the history behind the term so there has been a bit of negative feedback towards it but I have heard a lot of positive feedback in saying that – that it was a good move for the school,’ he said. 

Mr Lambert said staff and students had embraced ‘be yourself today’ as a chance to express themselves more authentically and creatively. 

‘For example one of our staff is heavily into his spear fishing and free diving so he was wearing some of his spear fishing gear with suit bottoms on and a towelling poncho over the top’, he explained.

The assistant principal also drew a correlation with the new term with the college’s decision to replace ‘excellence’ – one of the school’s mottos – with ’empathy’. 

‘We call them our pride values which are participation, respect, integrity, determination and empathy,’ he said.

‘So it fits in really nicely with our empathy pride value, putting ourselves in the shoes of others sort of thing.’

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