'Be yourself day' replaces mufti day at Upper Hutt school over cultural insensitivity fears

The school has held its first "be yourself day".
The school has held its first "be yourself day". Photo credit: Getty

The assistant principal of an Upper Hutt school says the decision to rename mufti day as "be yourself day" came after last year's head girl questioned whether the term "mufti" was suitable.

Last Tuesday, Heretaunga College held its first "be yourself day" after deciding the word "mufti", which refers to a non-uniform day, could be construed as inappropriate, the New Zealand Herald reports.

"No one has actually come forward who has taken offence to it. It's more about using empathy across the board to make sure it doesn't happen," assistant principal Matthew Lambert said of the change.

"Knowledge is power so the more our students know about other cultures and whatnot the better," he told the Herald.

The change was first promoted in October. A post on the school's pride council Instagram page promoted the new title as "you-niform day, previously known as mufti day". 

Canterbury University historian Katie Pickles had previously called for mufti day to be renamed in an article for The Spinoff. 

"A Mufti is a respected Muslim cleric. Through good times and bad, they've been about since the early modern Ottoman Empire," Pickles wrote in February last year.

"Once upon a colonial time during the Raj in India, off-duty British military leaders adopted a subjugated culture’s ceremonial clothing as their informal attire. It appears that officers started dressing in robes and slippers that they slightly mockingly thought resembled garments worn by Mufti. 

"From there, the British Army started using the word 'mufti' for their days out of uniform when they wore loose and comfortable clothing."

Lambert told the Herald some members of the school community were aware of Pickles' article.

"Giving it the 'be yourself day' label meant that a few people would have wanted to express themselves even more with what they were wearing, staff too."

The school's inaugural "be yourself day" raised $500 for charity.