Bengaluru: A day after al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri praised Muskan Khan — a Karnataka student who became famous for her pro-hijab protest in February — her family has distanced itself from the statement.
Al-Zawahiri made the statement in a video message about the hijab controversy in Karnataka, which pertains to restrictions imposed by government educational institutions on wearing the Islamic headscarf in classes.
Speaking to reporters outside his residence in Mandya, a district in Karnataka, Muskan’s father Mohammed Hussain Khan said Wednesday that the al Qaeda chief’s praises were “unwelcome”.
“I don’t know who this person is or what he has said. I heard him speak only after you (journalists) showed the video clip to me. He seems to have said something in Arabic, purportedly praising my daughter. This is all wrong and an attempt to create rifts among us. All of this is unnecessary and unwelcome,” Khan added.
Muskan, who studies at a private college in Mandya, shot to national fame during the peak of the hijab row in Karnataka when she stood up to a crowd of protesters wearing saffron scarves, who were heckling her for wearing a burqa to college. Muskan had retorted to their chants of ‘Jai Sri Ram’ by shouting ‘Allah-Hu-Akbar’.
In his video message, al-Zawahiri, the world’s most-wanted jihadist, hailed the student for having “challenged a mob of Hindu polytheists with defiant slogans of takbeer [God is the Greatest]”. He also claimed that the hijab row has exposed “the reality of Hindu India and the deception of its pagan democracy”.
This is the first time he has issued a statement since September last year.
Muskan’s father also told reporters that al-Zawahiri should refrain from talking about other countries: “Let them mind the business of their countries. There is no need for us to break our heads over what they say. We are all united and together here.”
His comments come at a time when Muslim businesses at temple fairs and those dealing in ‘halal meat’ are becoming the target of an economic boycott fuelled by Hindutva groups in Karnataka.
Suspicion proven right, says Karnataka minister
Even as Muskan’s family said the al Qaeda chief’s praises were unwelcome, Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra deemed it a validation of their “suspicion that outside forces were fuelling the hijab protests”.
“Special investigation is taking place in this matter. Even the high court had observed that those children’s language and behaviour wasn’t natural and something else was behind them. Even I said multiple times that communal forces are behind them. Now it has been proven right,” he told reporters outside the BJP office in Bengaluru Wednesday.
“What comes as a shock is how this matter has reached the international stage. It has been taken very seriously by our Union as well as state governments. We will investigate the links and who is involved,” he added.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)