'Pseudo-science and patriarchy' rules Al-Taqwa College, says former student Lamisse Hamouda.Henrietta Cook – ‘Pseudo-science and patriarchy’ rules Al-Taqwa College, says former student Lamisse Hamouda. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

A former Al-Taqwa College student has accused embattled principal Omar Hallak of enforcing a “patriarchal system of oppression” at Victoria’s largest Islamic school.

Lamisse Hamouda, a 26-year-old youth worker, backed claims by former teachers that Mr Hallak prevented girls from playing certain sports, such as soccer, because he believed it could compromise their virginity and fertility.

In a strongly worded opinion piece published by Fairfax Media, Ms Hamouda said her father met Mr Hallak to ask if he could promote a new soccer club for Muslim youth at the school.

Former Al-Taqwa College student Lamisse Hamouda with principal Omar Hallak.Former Al-Taqwa College student Lamisse Hamouda with principal Omar Hallak. Photo: Supplied

“He was told that he could, only if he agreed not to recruit girls,” she said. “According to Mr Hallak, girls could not play soccer, as it would compromise their virginity and fertility, somehow causing damage to essential baby-making internal organs.”

Ms Hamouda still remembers her father’s disbelief when he told her about the conversation.

“It shaped a crucial part of developing my awareness into the very real injustices played out against women’s participation in public spaces and the perverted beliefs that underlie it.”

Her comments followed revelations in Fairfax Media on Thursday that the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority was investigating a former teacher’s claims that Mr Hallak banned girls from running in sporting events.

In a handwritten letter to Mr Hallak, female primary school students complained about the unfairness of a cross-country event being cancelled because “girls can’t run”. Mr Hallak denied the claims and said girls at the school were encouraged to participate in all activities.

Ms Hamouda said her time at the Truganina school from 2003 to 2006 was “a rollercoaster of frustrations, battles and internalising a lot of resentment”.

“If it wasn’t the insidious racism, it was the oppressive preaching of faith that rendered critical thinking lost to obedience and authoritarianism.”

While participation in sports for girls was never forbidden outright, “it was just ignored wherever possible”, she said

The schoolyard was segregated according to gender, “with female students relegated to spaces of concrete and picnic tables”.

“We cannot and should not subscribe to marginalising women from sports activities, especially when faced with such absurd rationales. However, it is more than just sports; it is about an entire system that continually relegates the needs of women as secondary. This system is not Islamic and it is not Islam.”

Ms Hamouda said the Muslim community was developing, “aware of our shortcomings” and Islamic schools played an important role in this process.

She said by ignoring the concerns raised by girls banned from taking part in a cross-country event, Mr Hallak was “teaching these young women that their voices will not be heard, that their needs and wants do not matter in the presence of male authority”.

“What we see here is the lived reality of patriarchal systems of oppressions in practice, systems influenced by culture and personal beliefs that are then filtered through the lens of Islam.”

The former student, who is now studying international relations at the University of Sydney, said she would joke that the school was like “a mini Arab dictatorship.”

“I think it is time for a revolution.”