News Briefs | Angle
Behind the Veil
On the refusal of education to Muslim girls wearing hijab in Karnataka
11 Feb, 2022
THE KARNATAKA HIJAB row is this—some girl students came wearing the attire to a college and they were refused entry saying it went against the uniform code; they protested saying this was part of their religion; the issue escalated across the region; the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state government stepped on the side of the college; and now, it will be tested in the judiciary. The issue is fertile for everyone to have a stand at any end of the ideological spectrum. If you are a feminist, then you would presumably be for women having the right to wear what they want. But there also cannot be any doubt that the hijab stands for the subjugation of woman. What if a woman voluntarily demands this subjugation? This should be the liberal standpoint, but liberalism is also about true individual freedom and if a woman is conditioned since birth to cover herself while men have no such religious regulation, then how can it be freedom? If you are an orthodox Hindu, then the violation of the uniform code is yet another attempt of the takeover of public spaces by a minority religion. For the Muslim orthodoxy, it is simply what their religion states and that is inviolable even though these were rules made 1,400 years ago for a society that has nothing in common with the present.
There is also the question without which there would no issue at all. Why have uniforms in colleges for students who are adults or near that age? But that is less interesting territory unlike the hijab where everything is cut and dried for whoever looks at it with the lens of their choice. In an ideal world, all religions would be seen for what they are—cults that gained respectability purely because of the numbers involved. But the world is what it is, and there is no ignoring the reality of its features and their competing tug of wars.
There is one clear irony in the denial of education to Muslim girls if they don’t follow the dress code. Forcing women to not wear a dress in a particular manner does nothing to increase their independence. Precisely because the pull of religion is so strong, parents would rather not send them to a college with such a rule than allow them to remove the hijab. The alternative would be a religious institution where all such orthodox symbols are reinforced. If Muslim girls have to discard the hijab, the way to do it is more secular education. And equal rights. A Uniform Civil Code is a better end to chase than get distracted by issues like the wearing of hijab. Such a code will hopefully be fair and in keeping with the ethos of the present age. Reformations must stick, otherwise they are illusions to be politically exploited. Which is why far away from Karnataka, in Uttar Pradesh, both BJP and the Samajwadi Party (SP), the two main contenders in the Assembly election, are hoping for the hijab issue to spill over.
About The Author
Madhavankutty Pillai has no specialisations whatsoever. He is among the last of the generalists. And also Open chief of bureau, Mumbai
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