At Shaheen Bagh, a few women have come out in solidarity with those who prefer to drape themselves in hijab or burqa while stepping out of the house
The hijab controversy in Udupi, Karnataka, is finding an echo at Shaheen Bagh – once notorious for the anti-CAA protests. Women are coming out at the protest site to show their objection.
Patriot talked with various Muslim women living in the capital to know what they feel about this controversy and how hijab is important to them.
Malika*, a software engineer by profession termed this hijab row an attack on freedom of religion and freedom of education. “Hijab is considered an essential part of Islam and essentials of religion are not meant to be put on test if they’re not threatening anyone”, she said.
When we asked her, how hijab is important for a Muslim woman, she said “For many Muslim women, it’s also a part of their dignity. To strip hijab off, violates human rights in three ways. It violates their freedom of religion. Since they’re forced to choose between hijab and education, it takes away their right to be educated. And thirdly, it makes Muslim women feel harassed”.
Educational Institutes in Karnataka have become newsrooms for many news channels and chasing of hijab-clad young girls has become common for TRP. The debate over the topic has hit new heights amid the ongoing election season.
When we asked Malika what she thinks about banning religious attire in educational institutes as part of the uniform, she said, “Schools and colleges are places to teach young minds about inclusivity and acceptance of everyone the way they are. Government schools and colleges should especially be more careful in this as everyone entering these institutes is a tax-paying citizen of India. Such moves are discriminatory in nature.”
“The point of uniforms in schools is to educate masses irrespective of their backgrounds. The right to be educated should always be greater than someone else’s right to assert a particular uniform on others that violates their freedom of religion. Such hindrance not only contradicts the point to assert uniformity but is also regressive,” she added.
A 24-year-old student, who is studying Master’s in Philosophy at Delhi University, has been wearing a hijab since class 12 and says it has become part of her life. News related to the controversy is disturbing her and according to her, this is taking a toll on her as well as the mental health of other students.
“Hijab is an obligation in Islam and most practicing Muslim women who submit to their God carry it out of obedience to God. I had been wearing hijabs in school and it was never an issue. For those of us who carry it regularly, it’s a part of our dignity and modesty as well. I never felt ashamed or oppressed practicing hijab. This current ban on hijab makes me upset in two ways. One, it forces Muslim women who are already marginalized to choose between faith and education. This will lead to many of them leaving education. Thus, an extremely regressive step from the government’s end to stop us from entering schools and colleges. Two, it attacks the dignity of Muslim women – the trauma of which can take a lifetime to heal.”
She went on to add that the controversy is already taking a toll over their mental health where they feel like the doors of educational institutes are being shut for them.
Recently, as per a report published by The Wire today, on Februrary 21, a government school situated in Delhi’s Mustafabad denied entry to the female Muslim students who wore a Hijab to school.
Importance of Hijab in Islam
Dr Syed Ali Akhtar, who teaches at National Law University, Delhi and holds a doctorate in International Law is a keen observer of minority and identity issues. While talking with Patriot, he pointed out that the religion of Islam endorses modest dressing for both men and women.
However, the term ‘hijab’ is not a proper term to refer to a woman’s covering. “The prevalent meaning of the word hijab is a veil which gives an impression that the woman is being placed behind the curtain. This has made many believe that Islam wants women to be imprisoned in the house. The duty of covering the head does not necessarily mean that the woman should not leave their homes. Quite the contrary, the woman’s covering refers to the duty that she should follow in her associations with men, whom she is not related to according to the Divine Law”, Dr Syed said.
Dr Syed further explained the importance of the hijab by using references from the book Islamic Modest Dress by Murtadha Mutahhari.
“A lot of people in the country point out to the fact that the word hijab is limited to the wives of the Prophet. Although it is a true proposition, the argument is put forward without context. The verse on hijab refers to the wives of the prophet. However, the term satr, or covering, is used for other women. It is to be noted that the term hijab may be reserved for the wives of the Prophet but this does not necessarily mean that other women are exempt from modest dressing”, he says. He further clarifies that it is in this light that the debate on the hijab should be seen from the religious point of view.
“However, the hijab controversy is not only a religious issue, but also a minority and identity issue for Muslim women in India. The remarks of Arif Mohammad Khan overlook identity angle of the hijab controversy and they mix religion with the contemporary social reality of Muslim woman in India”, he added.
* Name changed to protect identity
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Anmol Nath Bali
Anmol covers education, civic and general news for Patriot.