My parents are sending me to the UK next year to study English at university. I am happy about going but since I am a Muslim, I don't know whether I should cover my hair in a western country. I know my parents want me to do so but some of my friends have said that people will laugh at me and think I am strange. I have friends who have studied abroad and did cover their hair. What should I do? Education consultant Florence Robertson responds: This is a question raised by many female Muslim students who plan to study in a western country. Although this is a personal matter and one that you need to discuss with your parents, you also need to check the rules of the UK university at which you plan to study in order to understand the cultural environment in which you will be living for a few years. You may have read in the newspapers that Muslim women covering their faces with a veil is quite a controversial issue in the UK at present as well as elsewhere around the world. You haven't mentioned whether you cover your face or only your hair. Many universities now have requested that Muslim women not cover their faces The ruling of women to show their faces has become prevalent in many universities because of the current concern for the safety of students as some radicals are infiltrating universities in a disguise. The covering of a woman's hair, however, seems to be permitted. If you check the internet on the topic of British universities on Muslim veils, a search comes up with several articles. Many of them state that universities are against a Muslim woman covering her face. There has been such controversy in Britain on this topic that local people, university professors, and government staff members are all getting involved. Cabinet Minister Jack Straw has aired his views on it and has the support of some and raised the concern of others. An article at http//news.bbc.co.uk/1, points out his opinions as well as others. It states that: 'Cabinet Minister Jack Straw has said he would prefer Muslim women not to wear veils at all.' The Commons leader said he did not want to be 'prescriptive' but he believed that covering people's faces could make community relations more difficult. A second minister, Phil Woolas, has recently joined him in this statement. Because the topic of Muslim veils is a growing issue in the Britain, it is wise for you to check all the rules of the university that you will be attending before you go. If there are no rules concerning the covering of your hair, then you have to ask yourself why you cover your hair. If this is part of your culture and beliefs, why would you change if you were in a different country? If you believe in something and it is not hurting anyone or going against the rules of the university or country, you can be firm in your belief and explain it to your new friends. This is not always easy when you do not have your family and long-time friends with you to support your view but when you take these steps, it makes you a stronger person to stand for what you believe in. Those around you who have an open mind will understand. It is important when you have the opportunity to study abroad to know all the rules of the country and the particular university where you will be studying for several years, especially those that impact on your own culture.