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Heckled over hijab, Mandya Muslim student says no need to fear, fighting for right to education

Visuals of Muskan Khan being heckled by saffron scarf-clad protestors chanting ‘Jai Sri Ram’ at a college are viral. In an interview, she says college management is with her.

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Udupi: In a fleeting moment of retort, Bibi Muskan Khan became a symbol of Muslim resistance to saffron scarf protest against hijab in Karnataka’s educational institutions.

On Tuesday, a video of a burqa-clad Khan shouting ‘Allah-Hu-Akbar’, her hand raised in the air in response to a group of men heckling her with saffron scarves and chants of ‘Jai Sri Ram’ at her college in Mandya became a rallying point for those demanding that Muslim girls be allowed to attend classes sporting a hijab.

“We should not get scared. There is no need to fear anyone,” Khan told ThePrint in a telephonic interview, when asked what her biggest takeaway from the incident was.

“I am feeling courageous to know that because of me a lot of Muslim girls have started standing up for themselves. I am very happy because everyone is supporting me,” she said.

Khan has risen to the status of a local celebrity in Mandya, with people from various political parties and communities visiting her residence to commend her courage of single-handedly standing up to a visibly volatile mob. She has received support elsewhere too, with Muslim organisations in different states coming together to demand for Muslim women’s right to wear a hijab and attend classes.

“We are not creating any communalism. I am only fighting for my right, my education. For many years, we have been wearing hijab. No one has the right to ask us to remove this,” Muskan said.

Also read: ‘We are losing our friends’, say Udupi Hindu students about Muslim classmates in hijab row

What happened Tuesday

On Tuesday, Muskan arrived at her college gates wearing a hijab and burqa, as usual, but she was stopped by a group of men who demanded that she remove the burqa and hijab and only then enter the college.

“I didn’t care for them and entered college. Then another group of youth started heckling me with slogans of ‘Jai Sri Ram’ asking me to remove my burqa and hijab and saying I am not allowed to enter my own college. That is when I said ‘Allah Hu Akbar’ in response,” she said, adding that a majority of the men who heckled and bullied her were not from the college.

“They were outsiders and I didn’t recognise them,” Muskan said.

My principal, lecturers are with me, Khan says

The second-year commerce student is all praises for the management of her college — PES College of Arts, Science and Commerce.

“My principal is with me, my lecturers are with me. Nobody has ever asked me to remove my hijab. They were asking me to come to college as usual. They are protecting me,” Muskan said.

However, while she didn’t expect her act of resistance to inspire others, she said she is only following her culture. 

“This college education is for everyone. They have no right to ask me to remove my hijab. Hijab is a priority for me being a Muslim girl. They follow their culture and we are following our culture,” Khan told ThePrint.

The ongoing row began in December last year when Muslim students at Udupi Women’s Pre-University college (where 11th and 12th standard-equivalent classes take place in Karnataka) protested after they were barred from entering classrooms wearing their headscarves. Amid retaliatory protests by Hindus sporting saffron scarves, several schools and colleges shut their gates to hijab-wearing students.

The Karnataka government on 5 February issued an order mandating a dress code in all schools and colleges, with a ban on clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public law and order”.

The issue reached the Karnataka High Court this week, but the court declined to pass any interim order Wednesday and referred the case to a larger bench.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

Also read: A timeline of how hijab row took centre stage in Karnataka politics and reached HC


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