The hijab ban | Opinions

Over the past two weeks, many have seen the recent videos circulating on social media regarding India’s hijab ban, and all the controversial talk that has come with it. The viral video sparked a global debate, showing a student wearing her hijab at a local school in Mandya district. She was followed by a crowd of guys trying to harass her as she stood and shouted ‘Allah Akbar’ (God is great) at them. As the video shows, university guards quickly intervened and escorted her away from the crowd and into the school buildings. The thirty-second video has sparked a public debate in India and around the world about how Islamophobia takes its extreme forms in the secular government of Narendra Modi.

The BBC has published a research article online into the situation and revealed why, how and where it all started. The article states that it all started at a high school in Udupi district, Karnataka, where they banned the wearing of hijab only inside class. The college commented on the issue saying it allowed students to wear the hijab on campus and only asked them to take it off inside the classroom. In addition, adds the director of the college, “the measures were necessary so that the teacher could see the face of the student and the uniform made it possible to ensure that there was no discrimination between the students” (1).

Ironically, the controversy over banning the hijab is not new, as it dates back to 2005, when France banned the wearing of religious symbols in schools and government buildings in a heavily backed bill passed by 494 votes. against 36 votes. After that, other countries followed the path taken by France to restrict religious symbols, mainly in Europe. Examples of these were Kosovo, Denmark, Belgium, Austria and many others.

This restriction violates many fundamental rights that we have as human beings. It also violates fundamental international laws and conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. According to Article 18, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The right includes the freedom to have or adopt a religion or belief of one’s choice and the freedom, either individually or in community with others, in public or in private, to manifest one’s religion or belief by worship, observation, practice and teaching”.

Unfortunately, the ban on religious symbols has been going on for some time. But in India, it’s even worse. The minority Muslim population has been targeted in recent times by various institutional organizations. Starting with the crimes in Kashmir, although it can be argued that the conflict has a long history. It should also be noted that it intensified with the Hindu nationalist regime of Modi. The Citizenship Act passed in 2019 grants a path to Indian citizenship for many different minorities in South Asia such as Hindus, Sikhs and Jains, but bars Muslims from doing the same. Lately, the vicious attack on Muslim women’s choice of when and where to wear the hijab, and finally, India’s ruling party posted a hateful photo on an official twitter account of hanged Muslims and said : “No mercy for the perpetrators of terrorism”. The cartoon image was so gruesome that Twitter management quickly deleted the photo posted by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

One can easily conclude that the recent attacks on Muslims are unjustifiable, not acceptable, and that the Hindu nationalist regime has gone far in expanding hate speech in India. There must be a firm objection to the BJP’s push for Islamophobia, as these ongoing assaults must be condemned and those responsible must be punished.

1. Qureshi, Imran. “Karnataka Hijab Row: Judge Refers Issue to Wider Bench.” BBC News, BBC, February 9, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-60312864.

2. French MPs support the headscarf ban. BBC News, BBC, February 10, 2004, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3474673.stm.

3. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, December 19, 1966, 999 UNTS 171, Can TS 1976 No 47 (entered into force March 23, 1976) [ICCPR]

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