Karnataka Hijab Row: Clothing, Secularism and a Nation in Danger
Mere libaas by ungli utha kar mujhe nicha dikha rahe hai,
Zamana jahaliyat toh dekho,
Kehte hai mere haq mei awaz utha rahe hai
Muslim women have always earned a place in contemporary Indian political discourse. The need to speak on it has been imperative with the changing needs of the times. However, it doesn’t stop there. To speak on her talking for her, the Indian political scenario has diverged towards a form of dialogue where the Muslim woman is both present and absent. From being auctioned off online to being denied entry to colleges for wearing the hijab, it all brings us to one simple fact: there is a problem. Somewhere something is failing terribly. Is it our ideals on secularism? Is it the crying need for these women to affirm their identity? Or has Islamophobia anticipated Muslims as “potential threats” to social well-being?
The problem clearly cannot be deciphered literally, the problem is far more complex and has many faces, but what essentially remains is the fact that these hijab-clad women are “soft targets” even in which has traditionally been the safest of all. places — a classroom.
Read also : “Bulli Bai” and the gendered layers of the objectification of Muslim women
In recent events in Karnataka, not one but several colleges have denied women wearing the hijab to continue their education for the simple reason that the hijab does not adhere to the uniform of the institution. The pertinent question is, why now? How is it that the hijab itself has come to induce a sense of unease in educational circles when it was tolerated if not accepted before? Leaving aside the role of fundamental rights for a moment, the answer is quite simple. It is true that institutions have regulations that must be adhered to by students, but if hijab is banned in these colleges, would they remove the hijab as well? bindi and other forms of religious symbols like the cross, the janeu, etc. under cover of secularism?
According to statistics published by Bench, 84% of Hindu women (aged 18-25) wear a bindi in public places, and about 58% of Sikhs (aged 18-25) wear a turban, and nearly 87% of Muslim women (aged 18 25) wear the burqa (which includes the hijab and niqab) outside the home. The debate around this controversy takes a position where the expectation that religion be left at home is influenced by a French model of secularism that finds no place in the way our constitutionalists have defined the Indian brand of secularism. Another position that exists is that these Muslim women are “forced” to wear the hijab. It’s a weak accusation. How are two-thirds of the total population of Muslim women in India, or about 180 million Muslim women, forced to wear something they don’t want to wear? These are apparent elements in the discussion of the controversy which is tamed from time to time and which should acquire no relevance in the political debate.
Therefore, what must remain as a main element in the discussion of this controversy is what exactly needs to be done to end it. On paper at least, Indian secularism would never ask its citizens to keep their religious identity locked away at home. The Constitution allowed its proliferation as long as it did not hurt the feelings of others.
When it comes to the piece of cloth on a Muslim woman’s head, the affinity with an identity makes the image of hijabi women in classrooms a boring scenario for many. To simply imply, the need to remove anything that symbolizes religious affiliation is somewhat inconsequential and confusing. The instantaneous reaction to the situation in the colleges of Karnataka caused some groups of young Hindus in the shadows to appear the next day with saffron scarves around their necks, coupled with the welcoming of the saffron flag on the college campus, this which implies that it is simply “reactions”. and “backlash” to those who support the cause of women in hijab. Here, India’s secularism, which aims to be equidistant from all religions, turns into an “anti-religious” perspective in a classroom and proves that our political debate itself stems from the inability to understand what we mean by religiosity, secularism, tolerance and above all by ethical representation.
The implications of such continued persecution of Muslims are obviously vast and significant. If a Muslim woman took off her hijab to accede to the demands of these extremist elements, her desire for education could only be satisfied at the cost of her identity. Or if she decides not to take it off, the (near) future could in all likelihood indicate that Muslim women wearing hijabi are disappearing from colleges, universities and slowly from professional circles. What remains a relevant question is whether we now face a present where there is an urgent need for Muslim women to make a difficult choice between education and personal identity?
How does the hijab become an act of faith and the raising of the saffron flag a weapon? It boils down to one thing: fear. If a leap of faith is attempted with the intention of inducing psychological fear to control those who do not conform to a standard set of standards, then the leap of faith becomes pervasive and aggressive. And when there is fear and control, the options left to the other side are either to disappear or to compromise. And that’s exactly what Muslim women have been bought into: to compromise even when they clearly don’t want to.
Read also : Why Muslim women wearing the hijab could be the face of resistance
Nevertheless, to conclude, it is essential to note that it would be ridiculous to think that what happened in Karnataka, will remain in Karnataka. The repercussions are already being felt across the country. Pondicherry teacher asked hijab student leave the class. The consequences are obvious and it is too late to stop it now.
The only thing we’re left with is what next? Are our progressive liberal views so fragile that a piece of cloth can swallow them? Why is there an inherent need to estimate and calculate the extent to which a personal choice of clothing is made?
Hate is spreading; and it’s spreading like wildfire today. Such events scar our secular fabric and the scars rarely heal completely.
Featured image source: Al Jazeera