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Hijab: History, Mystery and Propaganda

Hijab is not part of any religious faith & the controversy fuelled by Islamists was to portray India as being inimical to Muslims’ interests

Neha Dahiya & Rohan Giri

Hijab controversy unfolded in Indian southern state of Karnataka when six girl students in Udupi government run pre- university college started wearing Hijab to the classroom beginning December 2021. They were turned out of classrooms for not following uniform rules.

These girls started protesting outside the college and insisted on wearing Hijab with claims that it was part of their religious practice. And, they argued for freedom to practice their religion and attire associated with it.

The girls in class 11 & 12 also admitted that while taking admissions they had signed an undertaking to abide by the college uniform or dress code. The girls became overnight global celebrities owing to protests while being anonymous until they followed the college norms upto December 30, 2021.

The controversy intensified and led to massive protests for and against wearing hijab in several educational institutions across Karnataka and elsewhere in Indian states. The issue gained momentum drawing ire from political parties, activists, and leaders.

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If one were to dissect the controversy, hijab has roots in Persian and known as ḥajaba or the veil in Arabic. In Quran, hijab is termed as ‘Khimar’ which means curtain or partition in literal or metaphorical sense.

Khimar originates from trilateral verb ‘khamara’, which again means ‘ghatta’, to conceal, hide, or cover something. Quran Surah al-Ahzab, verse-53 says, “Let them wear their Khimar over their juyub” referring to their chest. Allah instructed the believing women to bring the fabric to their front by drawing Khimar over their chests, as a covering.

Khumurihina (plural of Khimar) used in this Quran verse refers to scarves that females wore on the Arabian Peninsula at the time. Given the clear distinction, justifiably one wonders as to why Hijab is used while Quran refers to it a scarf or Khimar. 

Subsequently, verse 30 in chapter 24 and verse 54 in Chapter 33, Holy Quran asked both men and women to act with “decency” and “integrity,” both physically and morally.

The Quran did not mandate a strictly religious “uniform,” and the first spiritual message did not mean to impose strict or “fixed” dress rules once and for all as propagated by Islamist fanatics but rather to “recommend” an “attitude” or “ethic” towards the body and soul. 

Khimar versus hijab is not one of Islam’s pillars but rather relate to moral principles, behaviour and relational ethics. Only when religious faith is exercised freely can it meaning something.

As a result, discussing Islamic obligation to wear a hijab or Khimar is spiritually and technically incorrect as the Quran states, “No compulsion in religion.” (256 of Al-Baqara).

Muslim girls U-turn on uniform code in Udipi town may not have been incidental if one were to examine chronology of events that metamorphosed into an international controversy of sorts.

It seems more like a pre-planned propaganda by radical Islamists to create fear psychosis within larger Muslim minorities that total over 200 million painting a dystopian picture about current state of affairs and drive oft-repeated myth that the state was against Muslims.

Groundwork for the propaganda began in September 2021 when Campus Front of India (CFI), the notorious student wing of the radical Islamist outfit of Popular Front of India (PFI), began recruiting students from institutions across the country including Udupi.

Aliya Assadi, Ayesha Hajeera Almas, Ayesha, and Muskaan Zainab, the four initially stated victims of Hijab controversy created Twitter accounts a month after CFI started its membership push. They subsequently began participating in hashtag campaigns to promote CFI extremist islamist agenda. Almas AH who spearheaded the Hijab controversy was interviewed by BBC, where she claimed that they were not CFI members and only contacted the organization when stopped from attending classes.

But, Twitter handles of these girls present diametrically opposite side of the story. On November 1, 2021, they copy-pasted tweets of CFI against the new education policy. A cursory look at the content posting by these girls denotes that it has been done by design simultaneously.

On November 8, 2021, these girls participated in CFI hashtag to disrepute Supreme Court decision relating to Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi (Birthplace of Lord Ram) issue.  On the same day, these girls promoted #BabriMasjidVictimsofJustice hashtag posted by CFI president to oppose the Supreme Court verdict. Likewise, on November 19, 2021, these four Muslim girls participated in CFI #SaveKarnatakaFromFascists campaign against the state government.

On December 12, 2021, the purported victims of hijab issue posted copied tweets and same hashtags of CFI in support of arrested criminal Rauf Shareef. Hence, protest for Hijab was motivated by radical Islamist organizations and these girls were only paraded to depict that Muslims were victimized in India. Hijab is not a compulsion as per Islamic faith and certainly not above education for kids from the minority communities in particular.

Yasmin Nigar Khan, granddaughter of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan & president of All India Pakhtoon Jirga-e-Hind said a uniform code should be followed in schools. If girls wear a burqa or hijab in school premises, then there will be an issue of identification. There should be no politics in this. In schools, all students are equal and religion should be followed to an extent only.

Karnataka high court in its interim order pending hearings restrained all students regardless of their religion or faith from wearing scarves, Hijab, saffron shawls in the classroom. There are provisions and restrictions for face covering or wearing a Hijab due to several reasons in different countries.

For instance, in 2004, France imposed a fine equivalent to Rs 13,000 on those that wore hijab. Similarly, Syria where the Islamic State or ISIS has had considerable hold, hijab was banned in colleges way back in 2010.

In 2012, President Putin’s administration in Russia banned hijab in schools and colleges. Three years later, Belgium banned niqab and Burqa in 2015.

On the other hand, Bulgaria made covering of face illegal in 2016.

Denmark adopted a law that prohibits covering face in 2017. Those who violated this law by wearing a hijab were imposed a fine of Rs 12,000. Netherlands government followed suit in 2019 by banning covering of faces in schools, hospitals and some public places.

The latest nasty propaganda in Karnataka was spread to portray Muslims as victims in today’s India conveniently ignoring the fact that the demand is a blatant violation of the universal rules followed by educational institutions throughout the country.

(Neha is content writer & Rohan is manager, operations at CIHS)



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