By Arun Srivastava
At a time when the common Muslim has been distancing himself from rigid religious beliefs, having faith in the rule of law, constitutional norms and be liberal, the verdict of the Karnataka High Court not to wear Hijab in school and colleges as it is not an essential religious practice under Islam will simply help and encourage the hard core Muslims to confuse and mislead the common and liberal Muslims.
This will in another way help the fundamentalist Muslim clergies to force the Muslim girls and women not to adopt liberal values and be modern in their views and approach. There is no denying the fact that the court’s verdict presages the girls and women to remain confine to domestic space, condensing her vision of entering the mainstream.
It was in the wake of BJP’s patriarch L K Advani organizing rath yatra, and givng call for demolition of Babri Masjid, some fundamentalist elements among Muslims got motivated to revive and strengthen the religious notion. A few Muslim youth who used to ear normal jean dress, shifted to Pathani suit and some girls opted for Hijab which was being discarded by the liberal Muslims at that point of time.
Unfortunately the RSS which has been the brain behind encouraging the Hindu fundamentalists tried to screw further the modern and liberal Muslims who were on striving to have their space. The middle class urban Hindu got scared of the rise of the new section of Muslims. These people were not orthodox and even were blind followers of the Mullahs and Maulavis. But the oppressive mechanism and politics of hatred launched by the Hindu bigots scared them.
In fact the youths started wearing Muslim dresses and girls wearing Hijab a symbol of their assertion of identity. It is interesting to find that post Babri Masjid demolition time witnessed the new kind of political assertion of identity. The High Court trying to find a relation with Hijab and Islam is a misconstrued move. Judges did not seek woman’s view on the hijab. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the judges did not have clear idea about the dress code as defined in Islam. Narendra Modi after coming to power, launched “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” campaign to protect and educate the girl child. But the campaign of the ultra Hindus owing allegiance to RSS and BJP against Hijab is the clear manifestation that they do not want the growth of educated urban middle class liberal Muslims. They nurse the feeling that bourgeoning Muslim middle class would deprive them of expansion.
There is no denying the fact that the Karnataka HC verdict is a setback to Muslim girls in their pursuit of education. A question could be asked to the court is uniformity of dress more important than dissemination of education? In today’s India Muslim women and girls are invisible Muslims. Incidentally they even do not get wide and much needed support from the ulemas and maulanas of their own community. In this background when they are striving for education, they must be encouraged. They are denied to study on the name of religion, now unfortunately it is the same religion which is being used to deny them education by the court. These students desire to learn and become independent, without it taking away from their personal religious identity. Parents in most of the cases agree to send the girls if they wear hijab. If the girls abide by the court’s directive they will have to be illiterate and confined to domestic life. The choice before the Muslim women is limited. They either choose the progressive path of pursuing their education or the regressive path of clinging to a patriarchal imposition.
Girls in most part of Karnataka have stopped going to colleges. In a way it could be described as the fall out of the majoritarian political nature of the order. This has been simply strengthening the religious feelings which is detrimental to the growth and development of the country. It is simply serving the interest of the Hindu religious bigots which desires to see the Muslims as backward community and a second class citizens.
This hijab centric judgement in fact has motivated the Hindutva protagonists to justify Hindu religious teaching in schools. The HC verdict has made it easier for the governments to bring about the changes that the rightist rulers desire. A couple of days back even the vice president Venkaiah Naidu called for Indians to give up their colonial mindset and instead take pride in their own identity. He was correct. But can he deny that in the modern world for proper growth of the country, the parents should deny English education to their kids. It is wrong to construe that English has given rise to a small class of aristocrats. In fact the demand for introducing Gita in the schools is an attempt to saffronising education. Question may also arise if Gita can be introduced why other religious scriptures should not be introduced.
The court was supposed to give its verdict on the validity of the ban imposed by the government on the use of hijab. But the court behaved more like a Islamic theologist and social reformer. The Supreme Court will be looking into the matter. It is an enormous task. Nevertheless the major issue that the apex would have to look into is any verdict must not impinge on the cultural ethos of the community. The politicians have already ruined the cultural norms and the time has come when this nature of political activity should be discouraged. (IPA Service)