The Hijab Controversy!

Hijab | Controversy | 18th February 2022 | Virtual Wire



‘Bache mann ke sache...yeh fool hai jo lagte bhagvan ko pyare’? [Translation: kids are innocent…. they are god’s favourite].

In India, this phrase is often used to describe the innocence of a child. But is it reasonable today? Recently, we are witnessing toxicity in society which did not spare the students this time and a part of communal hatred as well. It started with Udupi college, followed by several other educational institutions; banning the ‘Hijab’. Suddenly, the school administration says that the girls violated the school uniform code and were not allowed to enter the school premises. However, the girls disagree and maintain its within code of conduct, pleading to let them in school.

Several schools and colleges in Karnataka have banned Hijab due to which many girls are This is someplace followed by a protest by Muslim girls and a counter-protest by boys wearing saffron shawls. In some places, these protests turned into slogans, while in some other girls were harassed while some places witnessed stone-pelting. The situation turned to torment leaving CM Basavaraj Bommai with little option but to close the educational institution for 3 days. As with any other communal issue in India, the ‘Hijab controversy’ has a legal as well as political angle.

The legal angle has been used for political gains with some politicians scratching the healing wounds like the issues of reading Namaz in open (in Gurgaon), Ghaziabad meat eaten and latterly the problem with Hijab in Karnataka. Stating the legal facts, Article 25(1), Fundamental right of the constitution: guarantees right to profess, practice, propagate religion and the state should ensure that there is no obstruction to this. There are reasonable restrictions to ensure public order, morality and health are not compromised in the process. Does the hijab violate any of such restrictions?


The immediate answer that comes to mind is: No, it does not affect anyone’s life in any manner. The Next problem is what can be done in the mane of religion? Since 1954, the supreme court set a precedent stating that the term religion will cover all rituals and practices that are ‘integral and essential’. In subsequent cases and in various international rulings Hijab has been a fundamental aspect of Islam. Thus, in many governmental services, Hijab is legal and accepted as part of the uniform. However, the situation becomes confusing. In a 2004 ruling, Supreme Court upheld that the Ananda Marga sect was not allowed Tandava dance in the public streets because the court observed it was particular to the sect and not essential to the religion itself.

Next, in the 2016 judgement, a three-judge bench of the supreme court discharged a Muslim airman from IAF for keeping a beard, as again this was not part of the essential practice to the religion. However, the matter becomes complicated as, for instance, the beard is an essential feature of the Sikh religion. The important criticism remains: Praying in Parliament; singing hymns; dressing in saffron clothes is not a problem, so why wear a scarf? Speaking of those who are against Hijab put forwards the argument that it symbolizes patriarchy and that girls are forced to wear Hijab by their family and community: a form of coercion. The argument is about Women Empowerment and Freedom of Choice. But ironically, in our country those who are against the Hijab, wants neither women empowerment nor freedom of choice.

What does the law say about Hijab? In 2015 a petition challenged the dress code for all Indian pre-medical exams. Kerala High Court directed the CBSE to put additional measures for checking students who “intend to wear a dress according to their religious custom, but contrary to the dress code”, however, in 2018


a different verdict was given in when father wanted his daughter to wear a headscarf as well as full sleeves but the school refused, the court ruled that the collective rights of the institution would be given primacy over individual rights. Therefore, the court left it with an opened-ended question, which is now being exploited politically and kids used as ‘lab-rats’.

It is evident through many of the media reports that colleges are pressurized to prevent girls from wearing hijab. Thus, the strength of our country is unity in diversity; tolerate a little bit of diversity-not harming anyone. These open-ended issues should be resolved within the walls of courts instead of closing gates for little girls with a sudden announcement. Not long ago we used to know our friends by their first names with little or no care about their creed, culture, clothing etc. but now with this type of segregation at school and college, student against student we are given tough competition to the British divide and rule.


This division will have a negative impact on the mental health of students. The debate cannot be settled by fiat, by declaring that a certain dress is regressive. Nor can it be settled by invoking unlimited freedom to religious expression The purpose of the government should strive for a socially integrated society, living together in harmony and prosperity, while at the same time having freedom of choice as much as possible. The goal should be to uphold the principle of secularism guaranteed by the constitution. We need to agree on the right forum and a fair procedure acceptable to both sides.

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