Hijab: Banned by Islamic states, fought for in India
Today, two news, on the same issue, are keeping the people busy. One is protest against Hijab in an Islamic country Iran and another is support to Hijab by Muslims in India, especially Karnataka. In one news, angry protestors tore down posters of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his predecessor, Ruhollah Khomeini, from a municipal building in the northern city of Sari amid a national outcry in Iran over the unusual death of a 22-year-old woman while in the custody of the country’s “morality police”. The protests initially erupted in the hometown of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while in the custody of ‘moral police’ for reportedly not wearing a hijab properly. However, demonstrations have now spread to at least 16 of Iran’s 31 provinces with Iranians demanding a broader change of restrictive rules imposed on women. Females across the Islamic Republic have protested by removing hijab and chopping off their hair.
Against this backdrop, it is interested to mention here that Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the Supreme Court yesterday that the Karnataka government’s decision to outlaw the hijab in schools is a non-religious judgement and that neither a saffron gamchha nor a hijab is permitted in schools. For the eighth day, the Supreme Court is debating a group of petitions that challenge the state’s ban on the hijab at educational institutions. Mehta, while speaking on behalf of the government, also informed the court that the petitioner students are influenced by the Popular Front of India (PFI) .
Now, these two news stories are making the headlines today. But the question arises, when there is fierce protest against Hijab in an openly declared Islamic republic, why are the Muslims in India want to degrade themselves by supporting Hijab? The Hijab battle in India was given a shade of being about women empowerment. Well, no one really would buy that story. One may choose to wear Hijab or choose not to, but it is certainly not a sign of women empowerment. Hijab ban is common in Islamic republics. Islamic republics like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan apart from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Western countries Canada, France and Austria have banned the use of Hijab in their countries. In fact, the country where the Islam was born, Saudi Arabia has freed their women from their obligation to wear Hijab. Then what is the reason behind the Indian Muslim clergy wanting Hijab to be an integral part of Muslim women? There certainly seems to be a sinister design behind these demands.
While, for the last several decades, a section of Muslim women in India have been wearing burkha (covering themselves except the face) and hijab (a piece of cloth covering head and neck), the fact is that a section of Muslim women, particularly belonging to the middle and upper-income group and those reasonably well educated and employed, have not been using this attire.
In other words, most of the Muslim women, wearing burkha and hijab, belong to lower-income groups, who could not avail themselves of adequate educational opportunities. Whether they like it or not, these women simply obey the dictates of Muslim clergy and male Muslim members, possibly fearing violence and harassment, if they would not obey the dictates.
Of course, there could also be a section of Muslim women, who believe burkha and hijab are necessary, as per the religious practice, and feel comfortable with such an attire. In any case, there have been practically no issues in India with regard to Muslim women having burkha and hijab for the last several decades.
While Islam entered India by the 12th century and Christianity entered a few centuries later, the fact is that the population of both these religions has been steadily increasing in India. Such an increase in population has largely happened at the cost of the Hindu population.
There were religions like Buddhism, Jainism in India centuries back but the population percentage of these religions in India now has become miniscule and negligible. There is a genuine apprehension amongst Hindus in India that the Hindu religion may also go in the same way as Buddhism and Jainism in the course of time. If the Muslim population and Christian population would steadily increase more than the growth rate of the Hindu population, then these apprehensions would certainly turn into reality. This makes people believe cases like Hijab and others are brought upon to sow the seeds of disharmony in the country and vested interests making India Dar-ul-Islam.