Hijab row: How the largest national minority is being pushed to periphery

Hijab row: How the largest national minority is being pushed to periphery

Protests in support of the right of Muslim women to wear Hijab (read head scarf) in government-run educational institutions have been growing by the day. Before the revelation of the holy Quran, wearing Hijab by women was a socio-cultural practice, which Islam appropriated and advocated. I think the practice of wearing Hijab by Muslim women falls in a grey area of debate, which can’t be decided through a binary lens.
Islamic theology is divided on the issue of whether wearing Hijab constitutes essential practice or not. In India, Muslim women have been wearing Hijab for centuries. With the advent of western culture in India, some Muslim women have renounced this practice. In Indian Muslim society, stereotypes are associated with the wearing of Hijab. You may find people around defining repressive thinking and progressive thinking on the basis of Hijab, but I don’t subscribe to this opinion. There is also a section of society which considers wearing Hijab as an obstacle to women empowerment. But there is a lot of evidence which refutes that claim.
The Constitution of India guarantees and protects the essential practices of each religion under Article 25. However, fundamental rights are not absolute, i.e., they are subject to reasonable restrictions and hence Article 25 also restricts essential practices on the grounds of public order, health and morality. If a sizeable population of Muslim society considers Hijab as an essential practice, then the courts should take it into consideration using the ‘Doctrine of Essentiality’.
If you have no objection with the turban of a Sikh, tilak of a Hindu, etc, then why are you making a mountain out of a molehill when it comes to the Hijab? The southern state of Karnataka is ruled by a right wing Hindu party. It has always been trying to impose its culture and diktat on others, especially people belonging to non-Indic religions. I see the issue of Hijab in coastal Karnataka less in terms of violating the norms of dress code in educational institutes and more in terms of political propaganda orchestrated by the Sangh parivar. We must not forget the chain of events in which one particular community was targeted, with Sulli Deals (2021) and Bulli Deals (2022), which put outspoken and prominent Muslim women who are not subscribing to the Sangh’s ideology on online auction. There were genocidal calls at different ‘Dharm Sansads’ asking Hindus to arm themselves to commit the holocaust of Muslims. And now a hijab row.
The deliberate silence of leaders holding constitutional and responsible positions in the government who failed to condemn all this added more fuel to the furry and provided legitimacy to it. The BJP will use every means at its disposal to get political mileage out of these issues. These incidents analysed in their totality expose the hollow claims of Beti Bachao and Beti Padhao.
People also need to ask why it happened only in BJP-ruled Karnataka and not in the whole southern region. The Sangh and its allies are on a mission to take this hate propaganda to the southern states and polarise the communities. Southern states are known for their fraternity and communal harmony. The Uniform Civil Code debate has been brought back. If the present regime drafts it, it will be much less a uniform civil code and more of a saffronised civil code.
To conclude, I would say no community should succumb to the pressure of the majority community. Muslims need not to assimilate with the majority culture and practice. It reminds me of a famous quote of Hannah Arendt: “If one is attacked as a Jew, one must defend oneself as a Jew. Not as a German, not as a world-citizen, not as an upholder of the Rights of Man”.

—The writer is a former student at Department of Politics and Governance, Central University of Kashmir. [email protected]

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