‘We can’t sit back and watch Muslims being publicly persecuted’
‘Time for the Ummah to unite’
In the wake of the ban imposed by the Government of India (GoI) prohibiting Muslim students to wear Hijab in educational institutes in Karnataka, parliamentarians in Kuwait have urged their government to impose an immediate ban on the entry of the members of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into the South Asian country.
Kuwaiti lawyer and rights activist Majbal Al-Sharika shared a copy of the letter, accessed by Free Press Kashmir, written by the parliament to the government on Twitter.
He wrote, “we can’t sit back and watch Muslim girls being publicly persecuted they said. Time for the Ummah to unite.”
The development comes after Indian MP Shashi Tharoor shared the same tweet while expressing his concern over “rising Islamophobia” in India.
“Domestic actions have international repercussions. I hear from friends across the Gulf of their dismay at rising Islamophobia in India & the PM’s unwillingness to condemn it, let alone act decisively against it. “We like India. But don’t make it so hard for us to be your friends,” Tharoor tweeted.
The Hijab row started a month ago when Muslim students were denied entry into a pre-university government college in Karnataka’s Udupi town. Several protests by the Muslim students also were witnessed against the authorities for what the students termed ‘unconstitutional ban’.
The saffron scarf-wearing students launched counter-protests, ruckus created by Hindu right-wing students at one college forced the police to fire tear-gas to control the flare-up.
The Muslim students said the hijab was an integral part of their religion and as such affirmed their right to practice their faith.
The row soon made its way into other parts of northern Karnataka where Hindu right-wing students, as well as Muslim women (supported by ambedkarite and student activists), protested against and in favour of the hijab, respectively.
Earlier on February 8, a Muslim student, as seen in a viral video, was harassed by a group of Hindutva members.
The student arrives at her college on a scooter and as she walks towards her class after parking her scooter, the Hindutva members begin to mock her Hijab by chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’, the video footage showed.
However, the student stopped to shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ to counter the slogans raised by the mob against her religion and Hijab.
Soon, the video was widely shared on social media with netizens lashing out at the Hindu right-wing members for the ‘inhumane act’.
The video was first shared by journalist Imran Khan, who wrote, “#KarnatakaHijabRow when a #hijabi student arrives at PES college in #Mandya. She gets heckled by students wearing #saffronshawls chanting #JaiSriRam. She raises her hand says “#AllahuAkbar befor being escorted by college staff. Video courtesy: Digvijaya News. #Karnataka.”
The student in the video is now being hailed as brave. Journalist Rifat Jawaid tweeted, “Very brave girl indeed. You need guts to take on these terrorists. Hope she remains focused to study and stay away from politics.”
One Twitter user wrote, “My salute this girl she is brave a gladiator.” Another commented, “Harassing a woman is not neither Hinduism nor Nationalism or Patriotism… & saffron don’t Represent Hinduism or Nationalism or Patriotism.”
The social media users praised the student for standing against the wrong and she was described as the “Iron Lady” and the “Icon Lady of Hijab”.
Reacting to the harassment, Congress politician Mukarram Khan stated that anyone who opposes the wearing of the hijab would be chopped into pieces. Later, an FIR was lodged against him in Kalaburagi.
“Hijab is an internal matter. We will not interfere with Hindu traditions, if you come to question our religion, nothing will be spared,” he had said.
Amid the criticism that GoI faced on global level, the US government body that monitors and reports on religious freedom abroad also criticized the move in February 12 statement.
Rashad Hussain, the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, or IRF, tweeted: “Hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom”.
Hussian was referring to the Hijab controversy that also prompted the Karnataka government to keep schools and colleges shut till the high court completes looking into petitions on the hijab ban.
“Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one’s religious attire. The Indian state of Karnataka should not determine the permissibility of religious clothing. Hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom and stigmatize and marginalize women and girls,” Hussain’s office tweeted.
The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom of which Hussain is an ambassador comes under the US Office of International Religious Freedom, which has in the past commented on tensions along religious lines in India.
Hussain was appointed Ambassador-at-Large for IRF by the US Senate in December last year. He is the first Muslim Ambassador-at-Large for IRF.
He previously held several high-level positions in the US government including serving as the Special Envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation during the Obama administration.
However, the Ministry of External Affairs India termed the move an ‘internal issue’ and said that the matter is being investigated by the High Court.
“A matter regarding dress code in some educational institutions in the State of Karnataka is under judicial examination by the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka. Our constitutional framework and mechanisms, as well as our democratic ethos and polity, are the context in which issues are considered and resolved,” Arindam Bagchi, the MEA spokesperson, had said.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka government has told the state’s High Court that “wearing the hijab is not an essential religious practice of Islam and preventing its use did not violate Article 25 of the Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom.”
Appearing for the state government, advocate general Prabhuling K Navadgi said that the government has taken a stand that “wearing the hijab is not an essential practice under Islam”.
Advocate Navadgi said, “My first submission is that the order is in consonance with the Education Act. Second is the more substantive argument that the hijab is an essential part. We have taken the stand that wearing of hijab does not fall within the essential religious practice of Islam. Third is that right to wear hijab can be traced to Article 19 (1) (a) submission is that it does not do so.”
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