Barring students from wearing hijab or headscarf is an attack on the “symbols of faith,” said activists and experts in India.
For many weeks now, a group of Muslim women at a college in India’s southern state of Karnataka has been barred from attending classes while wearing the headscarf.
On World Hijab Day being marked on Tuesday, Fawaz Shaheen, the national secretary of the Students Islamic Organization of India, the student wing of socio-religious organization Jamaat-e-Islami, told Anadolu Agency that the institutions which have banned students from wearing hijab are doing an “unconstitutional act.”
“It is not sudden and has been happening now, it is connected to the otherization of Muslims. We have seen such narratives for some time now,” he said. “Even cultural habits are being challenged. Such moves have basically attacked the symbols of faith and are happening continuously to polarize the society.”
The government of another state, Kerala, this week said that it cannot allow police cadets to wear hijab and full sleeves.
Shaheen noted that the wearing of hijab or anything else was a right guaranteed by the Constitution.
Urging Indians to speak up, Shaheen said silence against such acts would mean an endorsement.
“The majority should speak … Silence is not an option,” he said.
According to the Indian Constitution, every citizen has the right to practice, profess and propagate religion. This right can be curtailed only on grounds of public order, morality, and health.
Last month, tensions erupted in another government college in Karnataka’s Balagadi village after a group of students turned up wearing saffron scarves — the color favored by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party — and asked their female classmates from the Muslim community not to wear hijab during classes.
Subsequently, the authorities banned hijabs and saffron scarves on the campus.
New Delhi-based activist Aysha Renna told Anadolu Agency that such incidents were on the rise and all possible measure will be taken against it.
In Karnataka, the state government has said it will constitute a committee to formulate guidelines on uniforms at colleges.
Local Indian daily The Indian Express quoted State Education Minister B. C Nagesh as saying: “We will look into the court verdicts and what other states have done in such matters and will take steps. We have directed the colleges to follow the present rule till the government decides.”
Indian Muslims have witnessed a deterioration of the right to practice faith under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right-wing BJP.
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