Urgency of a judgement on Hijab

By

Faraz Ahmad

Would the Karnataka High Court, deliberating on a petition by Muslim girl students seeking rescinding a recent state government order blocking their entry into colleges and institutions wearing a head scarf, variously called a ‘Hijab’, deliver its judgement on this contentious order before March 6?  Unlikely.

The whole issue has been played up by the BJP government led, curiously by a chief minister Basvaraj Bommai, whose father S.R.Bommai, former Janata Dal president for almost as long as it lasted, occasionally asserted his secular socialist credentials, to whip up communal passions to send across its reverberations as far off as Uttar Pradesh to influence its Assembly elections currently underway. Evidently the BJP’s appeal appears a bit waning and in need of a booster. It is therefore necessary that the Court delivers it’s verdict on the Karnataka government’s order blocking the entry of Hijab wearing girls entering educational institutions not just to aid Muslim girls’ entry into schools and colleges but also to restrain the BJP from capitalising on this apparent communal divide in it’s election campaign in UP.

Javed Anand and some other well-meaning Muslims have hugely criticised the Hijab practice and I too consider it unnecessary and I don’t think young girls or boys be forced or pressurised to wear any religious symbols at all. He has argued that Islam hasn’t enjoined any Muslim woman to wear Burqa or Hijab. Granted and therefore had I daughter, which unfortunately I don’t, I would have opposed any move to cover her in a veil.

But the issue before the Karnataka High Court, to my mind, is different from what Anand is perceiving or portraying. The issue is of certain freedoms granted to every citizen under Articles 25, 14, 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. Article 21 guarantees to every citizen the Right to personal liberty. This means that a girl is free to choose what she would prefer to wear, particularly if she is a major College going girl. She is as much entitled to wear a head scarf as she has, to wear a short pant and a “tank top” if she so desires. Any attempt to dictate to her what to wear is problematic for me.

The reason why the government interference to girls’ head scarves called Hijab in colleges and schools is unacceptable because, for one it goes against the tenets of the freedoms granted to all citizens by the Constitution of India and two, because it has suddenly been sprung up by a BJP government to obstruct a practice of several years at the instance of the RSS-ABVP saffron brigade to whip up a communal frenzy.  As the campaign in UP started picking momentum and the BJP appeared losing ground, visibly in western UP Jat land which the BJP swept in 2017, and the people seemed wary of the BJP attempt to re-enact the Hindu-Muslim binary, boys in Karnataka wearing saffron scarves presumably belonging to the RSS student wing ABVP, suddenly started going to colleges, harassing young girls wearing Hijab. If that be so and that’s what appears to be, then it shouldn’t last beyond March 6 or perhaps even March 4, the day on which all campaign shall end.

Today Muslims girls are bearing the brunt of this patently communal excess of a BJP government with an eye on UP polls. Tomorrow when the elections to Kerala or Tamil Nadu are held the BJP might seek to communalise the Hindu voter there, it may well target along with hijab wearing Muslims girls also young nuns covering their heads and wearing a cross over their dress as the symbol of their devotion to the Christian faith and they do go to colleges and schools. Don’t they? When will such attack on minorities turn to the Sikh brethren we never know? Devout Sikh women also cover their heads with their “chunni/dupatta”. Will these girls also be asked not to cover their heads? We don’t know. Tomorrow they may block young Sikhs boys wearing turban from entering schools and colleges.

On the other hand we have a chief minister in UP and any number of BJP MPs in saffron robes, which no one seems to mind. Then there was a Jain naked Sadhu who addressed the Haryana Assembly wearing absolutely nothing and sitting above the speaker’s chair too. 

Article 25 of the Constitution grants to all Indian citizens the right to freely practice, profess and propagate their respective religions. Of course subject to public order, morality and health. The covering of head by a scarf in the class room causes neither. Many of these girls have been covering their heads with the scarf for many years now and from all accounts it hasn’t caused any disturbance to public order. Of course, a rider may be in order, that fully covering the face in a burqa or veil is a contentious issue because we don’t know who is going past in that veil and therefore there might be justification if the colleges or schools were to put a restriction on girls entering educational institutions in a burqa.

The issue before the court to my mind is not what Islam prescribes or proscribes. That is of little relevance to this case. Article 14 of the Constitution of India provides for equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. … “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”

The court has its task cut out insofar as whether the colleges and schools (and here we are now witnessing a new situation where even the all-girls minority institutions are following suit, presumably on stated or unstated Karnataka government order) have any right to prevent the girls to enter the institutions wearing the Hijab. Evidently not. if the Karnataka state’s objective is to communally polarise the people in a Hindu-Muslim divide for the UP polls, a fair judgement is needed to be delivered urgently without any further delay to ensure that these girls to return to their classes. Because any further delay could be perceived as influenced by politics of the day?

Eom

8 thoughts on “Urgency of a judgement on Hijab

  1. – 1. French National Assembly to vote on Hijab ban in sports.
    – 2. The French Senate has passed a measure that would ban anyone under the age of 18 from wearing a hijab in public.
    – 3. France was the 1st European country to ban Hijab in public areas.

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  2. She brought it upon herself by not wearing hijab, perhaps..?

    Noor Muqaddam, 27, was beaten, raped and beheaded by Zahir Jaffer, the son of one of Pakistan’s richest families.

    The brutal killing took place at his home on 20 July last year. CCTV footage showed her trying in vain to escape.

    Hundreds of women are killed in the country each year, and thousands suffer violence. Many cases go unreported

    1. Please read carefully. I have n.t said it is imperative for Muslim women to wear hijab or even the veil. I simply say all women and men have geh right to decide what clothes they want to wear. Also that burqa cannot be allowed in class. But a scarf on the head fine if some girls want that

  3. Moreover I am no authority on Islam and in my view there was no need for the court to go into what the religions prescribes or not for that was not what the girls approached the Karnataka High Court for

  4. Imposing burqa on everyone, how nice!!

  5. “He threatened to imprison her at home and stop her schooling if she ever uncovered her hair. As a result, she pretended to continue wearing the hijab and began her secret defiance.”

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