‘I Will Advise My Muslim Sisters To Choose Education Over Hijab’

Saniya Khan, 23, a practising Muslim from Karnataka, says hijab row is the creation of political vested interests and students must not play into their hands

I am a devout Muslim who wears burqa every time I step out of my house. Yet, I don’t support allowing burqa or hijab in schools. This statement might sound confusing to many of your readers but allow me to explain my position.

I firmly believe that an ostensible display of religious practices should be kept away from schools or workplace where certain protocols are followed to bring about a uniformity an impartiality. Whether burqa, hijab or a tilak, one should refrain from carrying one’s religious identity on the sleeve in a classroom.

You may mistake me as a liberal but I am not; far from it. I am deeply religious and I wear burqa in public space. However, as soon as I enter the office premises, I take it off. For, a workplace has a decorum and propriety that needs to be followed if you choose to join in.

Having said that, I know this hijab controversy has been deliberately created to fulfil the agendas of political parties. The whole issue could have been resolved right when it started but the state elections are due the next year and I strongly suspect that a social experiment is being conducted by some vested interest to polarise society so that they can swing the elections in their favour.

ALSO READ: ‘All Women Must Support Muslim Girls On Hijab’

I see the issue has now spread and spilled over to other parts of the country. A few days ago, my sisters came home from college and informed us that how there was a sense of fear among Muslim girls. Though the college administration hasn’t issued any diktat against burqa or hijab, there were fewer girls wearing burqa in the college. This whole incident shows how much importance these girls give to the education; they are ready to set aside their religious practice for the sake of education.

This episode also gives a message to school and college administration to not deny education to women over a piece of clothing. Women are fighting to get their due status in society and they know they can achieve it through education only. We women have fought a long battle to come to this level. But, if the college administration or the government will decide to reduce our access to education institutions over the matter of hijab or jeans, it will be the defeat of the country. This will expose the hollowness of our leaders’ promise to the right to education, particularly girls’ education

My message is for those schoolgirls also that even they are deeply religious and believe that wearing hijab in schools is their fundamental right, it should be set aside for now. Because, it is serving the purpose of one-kind-of ideology which wants to create a deep rift in the society and in this whole controversy only Muslims are being marginalised.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

‘All Women Must Support Muslim Girls’ Right To Wear Hijab’

Smriti Hegde*, a school principal in Gulbarga (Karnataka), says the politics behind hijab row seeks to fracture the social fabric of the country

It’s sad to see how girls, once again, are being targeted for their choice of clothing — jeans, T-shirts, shorts and now hijab. It’s more painful to see this time, as these girls are being denied of education because they chose to wear a headscarf.

I sense a lot of politics in it. I have the same questions what others have. Since my school days I have been seeing Muslim girls, many of my friends, attending schools in hijab. This issue never came up. One day, we hear that girls in hijab are not allowed in schools. This hijab controversy has been forcefully created.

The purpose of schools was to provide education and not divide children on the basis of gender, colour, caste and religion. This is also affecting the minds of innocent children. The main aim of the education was to develop the thinking and mindset which adopts everyone, but young children are learning something else — differences between communities. I am afraid even among children it’s gradually turning into ‘us’ vs ‘them’ issue, which is extremely bad for the society and the country.

Since this hijab issue started, I am observing our students very closely. This controversy has been going on far from here but I can see the shift in their behaviour. The camaraderie among students of two different faiths seemed to be waned. I sense a kind of cold war among them. It’s extremely disheartening to witness this. We never grew up like that. Some of my close friends are from Muslim community. Religions never came between us.

ALSO READ: A Headscarf Lifts The Veil Off BJP Face

I blame the politicians for it. They are destroying an entire generation for their temporary electoral gains. Had the government wanted, they would have nipped the issue in the bud. But it appears that it was rather allowed to spread — from one school to another. Then, we witnessed disturbing videos where students were clashing with police. Kids, who were supposed to be in schools, they were brought on roads with stones in their hands.

I personally believe that women from all faiths should come together and support Muslim women. This is not a matter of hijab. I am afraid that today, it is about hijab; tomorrow, they might force Hindu girls to wear sari.

While this controversy is going on, there’s one group of people who advocate of barring all kinds of religious activities from schools. However, I am of the different opinion. India is a highly religious country. People practise their faith openly and removing the sign of religions from schools is not going to remove religions from the personal lives of students. We should rather teach assimilation and the idea of tolerance to students, who can develop the idea of India where everyone can live peacefully together despite having religious differences.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

*The name of the narrator was changed on request as she argued that “the hijab issue has deteriorated to a level where I can’t even express my opinion freely”

Weekly Update: Gasbag Gunboat Diplomacy, Hijab Row & Yogi’s Maya

With pop guns blazing from her mouth and a dance of eyebrows that mimicked Clint Eastwood in A Few Dollars More, Liz Truss, Britain’s Foreign Secretary (Foreign Minister), went to meet the savvy, experienced Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergei Lavrov to tell him ‘Clear out or….’

The amused Lavrov waited for the ‘or…’. It turned out the gunboat waiting outside Kremlin was threat of economic sanctions and the prophecy of a dangerous war that Britain won’t get involved in but will sell weapons in.

One of the most experienced diplomats in the world, Lavrov made comic of Britain’s diplomatic initiative and said it was like a mute talking to the deaf and called her style, ‘shouting slogans from the tribunes’. The British Foreign Minister thought he was calling her ‘mute’ and immediately retorted that she was certainly not mute in the talks making herself look even more silly.

But that was not the only banana slip. During the talks Lavrov asked her a ‘trick question’ whether she recognised Russia’s sovereignty over regions of Voronehz and Rostov. ‘Never’ said Clint Liz Truss Eastwood making lip contortions as if spitting tobacco on the floor just as Clint does on screen. Liz, who had done as much homework as her Boss, Boris of Global Britain does before a meeting, thought Voronehz was Donbass. She probably didn’t know where Donbass was either.

By this time Lavrov probably felt like a University professor asked to do an oral viva of a student who had less knowledge than a nursery child but attempting a degree exam. It was the British Ambassador who quietly reminded Liz Truss that Voronehz and Rostov were Russian regions just as Midlands and Hertfordshire are in Britain.

During colonialism, the British had perfected a unique form of diplomacy called gunboat diplomacy. There would be a few ships with cannons loaded and pointing towards the Chief’s house while the British representative would engage in ‘diplomatic negotiations’. It went like this:

Brit Diplomat: ‘Chief, we want your land to dig gold and we will give you these shiny plastic beads in return.’

Chief: ‘Not acceptable.’

British Diplomat: ‘Ok that boat there will make our opening diplomatic statement.’

The cannons fired killing half the village and the Chief.

This particular type of British diplomacy worked well during colonialism. Now everyone has big cannons and the Russians some hundred times more than British Army. But habits die hard. The British Foreign Office still sticks to the old and tried methods. So its minister went to the Bear’s den to tell Lavrov, ‘Clear off or….’

Imagine Lavrov’s disbelief! In a war between Britain and Russia, the British Island will be frazzled within 15 minutes out of sight, making the channel crossing a long journey between France and America without any recognisable land mass in between.

The British Foreign Minister, Liz Truss, hoping to oust Boris the Boss, came back to Britain thinking she had put Lavrov in his place with her gunboat diplomacy and looking tough and determined. To the many old Brits, this playacting reminds of old days and they love it, even if it is only drama now. She will get their votes.

As for the sanctions, the Russians know that the threat of freezing their ‘slush money’ is non-starter. Britain owns 90% of ex pirate Islands now used for ‘keeping safe illicit money or money away from the taxman.’ The arrangement works in secrecy. If the Government freezes funds of one person, the whole edifice will start to come apart exposing British Oligarchs as well. Not a chance that British impose real sanctions.

Karnataka Going French

It was just the French who were afraid of women’s clothing and brought in the full force of the law against little girls wearing hijab. Now it is the brave men of Karnataka, the Hindu Rashtra soldiers, who feel their identity, masculinity and Trishul power draining existentially when they see an 8 year old girl with a Hijab over her head.

It seems romantic revivalism of the Kshatriya soldier has had the same effect on the men of Karnataka as the French revolution did on the French.

Both have huddled in numbers and passed laws banning the threatening and dangerous piece of cotton or polyester clothing over the head of young women. Imagine little girls saying, ‘Mummy, why is that man going pale and trembling when he looks at my hijab?’

The police, the Government officers and the teachers have forced little girls to ‘TAKE OFF THAT HEAD SCARF’, called hijab. The men can feel safe in Karnataka. Onward march the soldiers of Krishna, now that they have removed the most powerful defence equipment that was hampering their progress in what ever they think they are progressing to.

Only problem, when is a hijab not a form of chunni. dupatta or vice versa. Women have been covering their heads in South Asia since time immemorial. Even Sita covered her head. Will all young girls in Karnataka be subjected to naked heads! No more chunni! That is what the French did.

It is quite a sight to see a French Foreign Legion trained soldier reduced to a weeping, melting body of tissue when he sees a schoolgirl with a hijab. So it was understandable the French had to ban head covering. It is a quirk of French cultural genes as no one else in the world was inflicted with this fear psychosis of the hijab. Now it seems the genetic mutation has reached Karnataka. It would have been better to ban Air France.

Can ‘flyover superman’ Modi ji come to the rescue?

Moksha Elections Continue

It was a belief held in ancient times that this world is ‘maya’, an illusion. Moksha is when the soul leaves the body and joins the great ‘Brahma’. That belief sustained Hindus for thousands of years. Hindus survived alien occupations, wars, and oppressive regimes knowing that all that takes ‘form as matter’ is ‘maya’. Yoga and meditation were geared towards that.

Now Yogi Adityanath, perhaps having done enough yoga and not seeing any Mokshastan in sight has decided that it will be Hindustan that will be made into Moksha basti. The concept of Maya itself has become illusion and reality is to make first UP, then Hindustan, free of Muslims. So his tirades against Indian Muslims continue and an underlying theme of elections in UP.

One will no longer have to persevere through Yoga, Simran, Samadhi, Dhyan. People can just go to the voting booth, put Yogi ji in power again and Moksha will be in sight. And its all thanks to the genius of the British.

The power of British invention of democracy is extraordinary. Seems Westminster style democracy panth beats all other Indian panths and can achieve moksha in mayaland too.

‘Hijab Ban Is A Toxic Mix Of Sexism & Communalism’

Dr Ruha Shadab, who provides mentorship to Muslim women startups, says better education and female participation in national workforce are bigger issues than their choice of clothing

It all started at a government college in Udupi (Karnataka) where six Muslim girls were not allowed to attend classes for wearing hijab, a headscarf worn by Muslim women. College principal Rudra Gowda said he wanted to ensure uniformity in classrooms. The ban triggered a political slugfest, spreading out of Karnataka to other parts of the country, with demonstrations in favour of and against the hijab ban. The matter is now being heard by the Karnataka High Court. But we are missing the wood for the trees.

The choice of a woman’s clothing has been policed by men in our society and in our civilization for millennia. Women are pushed to fit into a narrow approved-limit of what they can say or cannot, what they can do or cannot, and what they can wear or cannot. Such patriarchal stereotype is not just a violation to the right of Indian Muslim women; this is a direct affront to the human rights. In this light I believe the current hijab ban is a toxic mix of sexism and communalism.

This is hardly the first time that a woman’s choice to cover one’s face or head — using a burqa, niqab or hijab — has created controversy. In 2013, Turkey lifted its decades-old ban on headscarves in the civil service. Many European countries like France, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Russia prohibit full-face veils (niqab and burka) in public spaces such as courts and schools. The debate and disagreement carry on.

ALSO READ: A Headscarf Lifts The Veil Off BJP

In India, interestingly, this episode has taken the wind out of the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao slogan. Many political leaders, such as Mehbooba Mufti, have called out the hollowness of this slogan when Muslim girls are being denied the right to education simply because of their attire.

Dr Shadab says hijab ban takes the wind out of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao slogan

Over 50% of Muslim women in India are illiterate today — literacy being officially defined rather generously to include just about anyone who can read and write a sentence or two. The situation in the northern states, and rural areas, is particularly dismal. About 85% of rural north Indian Muslim women are illiterate. The situation in the South, especially in urban areas, is considerably better, with 88% literacy rate among women.

Education indicators of our country are not where they should be, not only in terms of getting more people educated but also in terms of the kind of education that we provide. There are some communities which lag behind national indicators for the average of education and employment indicators. The Muslim woman community is one of them.

This means we need to create a more empowering space to help these marginalised communities to achieve the education level and employment aspirations that we all hold as a country. What is happening right now is the diagonally opposite. Indian Muslim women constitute a community of 100 million people and it is not a homogenous group; even on the matter of hijab, there is a spectrum of opinions among Muslim women.

The hijab is not an issue that this country needs to waste its energy and resources. The problem that needs to be addressed is why are women not an equal participant in the national workforce? Why are women not leading Indian companies in a respectable ratio? Why are our education enrollment and outcomes ratios of some women communities lower than the national average? These are the real issues that beg our attention.