By Dr. (Mrs.) Saba Taj

Recent incidents in Karnataka horrify the people, for the girls wearing hijab were not allowed to enter their colleges. India is a secular country and people of India believe in unity in diversity. All cultures and religions are treated respectfully and constitutionally. The Constitution of India itself gives us the rights to wear dress according to their choice and this is a fundamental right of human beings. Wearing hijab or veil is the choice of Muslim women as this is the order of Allah the Creator and Master; so practising Muslim women must wear hijab. This is their recognition as well as this shows dignity. Choosing dignity is choice of Muslim women. It is against the constitutional right to stop anyone in following their religious and cultural rules.

Also, it is very disappointing to see these discriminations in educational institutions. Those who think wearing hijab is oppression are the ones who are themselves oppressed.

IMPORTANCE OF HIJAB

The word hijab is derived from the Arabic word Hajaba which means to cover or to conceal. In Islam Hijab is an act of obedience and devotion towards Allah the Exalted, and it is obligatory for Muslim women. Hijab is to secure women from evil eyes and it dignifies the status of women in society.  It is not just about outer appearance but it means to behave in a righteous manner and noble character. Hijab provides a sense of security for a woman and gives her a dignified life. It gives her a sense of confidence because she feels safe and comfortable in areas which are congregated by males. Nobel laureate  Tawakkol Karman’s view  is the best answer to those who think hijab is oppression. She said, “Man in the early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved he started wearing clothes. What I am today and what I am wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilisation that man has achieved, and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is regressive back to ancient times.”

Mostly people think wearing hijab means hiding beauty and it is oppression for Muslim women. However, wearing hijab doesn’t mean hiding beauty not does it makes them less beautiful. It gives a sense of security to a woman and it’s not used to disgrace her. Many cultures have specific clothing for females and this is part of their cultural values. Similarly, Muslim women are also free to follow their cultural beliefs as this is the commandment of Allah; so every Muslim woman must follow this.  Therefore, wearing it is an act of faith and obedience to the Creator, as mentioned in the holy Qur’ān:

“Tell the believing women to draw their outer garments around them.” (The Qur’ān – 33:59)

Islam treated women with utmost respect and highest status. Hijab is not just a dress code; it signifies identity of Muslim women. 

In essence, Hijab provides the Muslim woman with both spiritual and physical peace and harmony.

INDIAN SCENARIO

The recent chain of incidents in a few education institutions of India, preventing Muslim hijab-wearing girls to enter schools and colleges is highly discriminatory and a direct attack on fundamental and constitutional rights of women, especially when the girls’ education is strongly campaigned by the Government under “beti bachao beti padhao” scheme. These incidents are alarming for the Government which claims to have provided safe and secure environment for girls.

Targeting Muslim women in the name of hijab or apps like ‘Sulli Deal’ and ‘Bulli Bai’ are not just a coincidence but religious discrimination and racism. It is injustice and an attack on womanhood. Hence violating the Constitution of India and targeting a specific community is strongly condemned. Communal discrimination is poisoning the  minds of young children and creating distrust among them about other communities.

On the other hand, discrimination in educational institutions is a very serious issue as it may have impact on future generations. This will create hate in the society, especially in young minds. Educational institutions should be based on cultural values not on religious basis. The Government of Karnataka as well as the Government at the Centre should take strong action to stop this kind of communal discrimination in institutions.

[The writer is Administrator and Educational Consultant, M M Model School, Kolkata, West Bengal]

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