New Delhi: The hijab controversy is not about choice but the sanctity of, and equality in, educational institutions, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-backed English weekly Organiser said in an editorial Monday, criticising the debate around the issue for promoting “religious bigotry”.
While hijab (headscarf) and niqab (veil) are “both considered the sign of a repressive and regressive society in the context of gender justice”, the Campus Front of India, “an extended wing of the notorious” Popular Front of India, “wants to promote segregated religious identity from the student life”, said the editorial penned by Organiser editor Prafulla Ketkar.
“An attempt to sow the seeds of religious bigotry by the male-controlled fundamentalist organisations should be called out openly and discarded squarely,” it added.
Ketkar also criticised “liberals” in the country for supporting a “dangerous trend” while highlighting that hijab is banned in public places in most developed countries.
“Many Islamic countries would not have seen a movement by women groups against this imposition by clerics. Most developed countries have banned it in public places, calling it the promotion of radicalism. Therefore, the ‘liberals’ who take pride in mocking every Hindu tradition and festival coming out in support of hijab is the most dangerous trend,” the editorial said.
The editorial comes amid a raging controversy around hijab and Muslim students’ demand to be allowed to wear it in educational institutions in Karnataka.
Also read: Viral photos, bruised egos, radical student groups: Inside story of Karnataka’s hijab crisis
Political leaders milking issue
Referring to Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s comments on the issue, the editorial said political leaders intend to “milk the issue” for political gains.
“Even political leaders who intend to milk the issue for political gains try to equate it with wearing jeans or a bikini in public. This logic is most frivolous, as this debate is not about women’s choice but entry into an educational institution,” the editorial said.
Whether it is a bikini, a ghoonghat, a pair of jeans or a hijab, it is a woman’s right to decide what she wants to wear.
This right is GUARANTEED by the Indian constitution. Stop harassing women. #ladkihoonladsaktihoon
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) February 9, 2022
The editorial also criticised “prominent, celebrity Muslim women” for supporting identity above education.
“Most of the prominent, celebrity Muslim women who decided to get rid of this regressive custom are now supporting identity above education, knowing very well that this is not about choices for women about their appearance in public places. Every education institution has a dress code for inculcating a sense of equality and discipline among students,” it said.
Also read: ‘We are losing our friends’, say Udupi Hindu students about Muslim classmates in hijab row
On PFI and ‘assertion of identity’
According to the editorial, the primary reason behind the ongoing agitation in Karnataka is assertion of “identity”.
“Asserting the identity of a male-dominated and interpreted monotheistic religion is the main agenda behind this agitation; few girls students demanding hijab as their right are just the instruments,” it said.
The editorial added that the instigator behind the attack is the Campus Front of India.
“The main instigator behind this entire agitation, the Campus Front of India, an extended wing of the notorious Popular Front of India, indicted in the Delhi Riots cases, wants to promote segregated religious identity from the student life,” he said.
Speaking about the “battle” in Karnataka, the editorial said there was “Kashmir-type stone-pelting” too during the protests.
“The battle started in the educational campus and has now reached the court of law. From Islamists to liberals, many prominent faces from the ‘secular cabal’ came out to support girls from a senior secondary school demanding their right to wear hijab while studying,” it said.
“In many parts of Bharat, posters came out, putting Hijab (headscarf) over kitab (books). In response, Hindu students in Karnataka demanding equality in the schools also protested with saffron shawls. These protests and counter-protests also witnessed violence and Kashmir-type stone-pelting,” it added.
On religion and law
The editorial also sought to highlight the legal cases in the country on hijab prior to this row.
“Earlier, in a similar case, the Kerala High Court, in the judgement delivered in December 2018 by Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque, made it amply clear 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’,” he said.
“As the lawyer associated with the Congress party, appearing for the hijab supporters, argued, quoting various interpretations from Hadith (a significant source of Islamic laws and morality), it is all about an essential part of the religion. The lawyer shamelessly quoted prescribed ‘punishment for not covering head and not wearing long dress’. Is the fear of punishment also about choice?” it added.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)
Also read: A timeline of how hijab row took centre stage in Karnataka politics and reached HC