Hijab: Blinkered Vision?
The country is witnessing protests by Muslim girls over the wearing of hijab. I do not understand why is this poison of communalism spreading in educational institutions? Now religious parochialism and stubbornness are being demonstrated with hijab. Tomorrow it will be about namaz in educational institutions, then halal meat in school-college canteens and maybe again on a weekly holiday on Friday instead of Sunday–and thus the list will be endless. Here it is worth mentioning that in Lakshadweep, for over 70 years since Independence the weekly off in schools used to be on Friday, not Sunday. However, the administration has recently discontinued with this system. Now, the students and parents of lakshadweep have happily accepted the decision of the administration. Clearly, this hijab controversy is not as spontaneous as it seems. This spark is being deliberately set on fire. Politics is playing an important role in this from behind the scenes. This is a conspiracy to influence the assembly elections of five states and organise fundamentalist forces. In fact, the uniform rule is not a new one for Karnataka and it was there in the educational institutions for decades including the period when Congress was ruling the state and Sidharamaiah was heading the Congress government. The girls of Muslim community were attending the pre-university colleges for the past several years without wearing hijab. So, it is obvious that it is other than religious sentiment, which is forcing the girls to rake up the hijab issue. As a result, the children, who should have focused on their studies, are plagued by communal urges and prejudices. This situation is not only harmful for the academic session but can also make the environment of the school-colleges polluted and stressful for a long time. Moreover, it has been a tradition of India, starting from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the dress code of students and general public is accepted according to the geographical locations and climatic conditions and not on the religious lines. Now the world over, the dress code is always followed according to the above perception.
Here it is pertinent to mention about the verdict in a case on religious dress in a private educational institution. In this case, Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque of Kerala High in his verdict said: “In such view of the matter, I am of the considered view that the petitioners cannot seek imposition of their individual right as against the larger right of the institution. It is for the institution to decide whether the petitioners can be permitted to attend the classes with the headscarf and full sleeve shirt. It is purely within the domain of the institution to decide on the same.” Meanwhile on February 10, Karnataka High Court said it would pass an order directing reopening of colleges, and asked students not to insist on wearing such religious things till the disposal of the matter. The founder of our constitution Dr. BR Ambedkar wrote in his famous book “Pakistan or the Partition of India” (page 231, Chapter 10): “Muslim women lag behind women of other castes because of the purdah system. They are not able to participate in any kind of outdoor activities, due to which a kind of slavery and inferiority complex remains in them. They do not even have the desire to acquire knowledge because they are taught that they should not be interested in anything else outside the boundary of the house.” On page 231 of his book, he further writes: “The purdah system has adversely affected the morality of Muslim men. Due to the purdah system, a Muslim is not able to make any acquaintance with women outside his family. His contact with the women of the house is also limited to conversations. Apart from children and the elderly, a man cannot mingle with other women. This separation of men from women certainly has a distorted effect on the moral strength of the man. No psychological analysis is needed to say that a social system that cuts off contact between men and women creates an unhealthy tendency towards sexism that leads to adoption of unnatural and filthy habits and means.” Against this backdrop, it is apt to say that the way the whole matter has been given a communal colour, it is not going to be solved on superficial decisions. Now it is not the matter from where this issue started, now the problem is the politics started in it, which wants to take decisions about the old complexities of the society on the streets, wants to hurt the common culture of India. It wants to put people, who believe in coexistence and harmony, in danger. Personal interests, beliefs, etc. will always be different, but there should be no conflict between them–mutual cooperation, harmony and mutual understanding should remain, it is necessary. Efforts to break it for political interests are breaking the country.
By Deepak Kumar Rath