Unconstitutional & Islamophobic Hijab Bans in Karnataka must go, say Indian Americans - IAMC

Unconstitutional & Islamophobic Hijab Bans in Karnataka must go, say Indian Americans


Washington, DC (February 07, 2022) – The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, today unequivocally condemned the discriminatory treatment and denial of educational opportunity being inflicted on Muslim students wearing the hijab at various colleges in Karnataka state.

The discrimination faced by these students is severe, humiliating, and dehumanizing. In the past few weeks, Muslim students have been kicked out of classes, verbally threatened by teachers, and marked as absent simply for choosing to wear the hijab, that comprises of modest clothing including a headscarf, and that has never been a contentious issue throughout Indian history. At one college, Muslim students were pressured to write an apology letter to the faculty for their supposed lack of discipline. At another college, Muslim girls pleaded with a faculty member as he closed the school gates in their faces; later, a group of Hindu extremists threatened the Muslim students’ with a knife. When the students were admitted back to campus, they were segregated away from their peers into a separate classroom. Such discrimination is not only sickening, but also unconstitutional and illegal.

Even more disturbing is the fact that Hindu extremist leaders and politicians have used the students’ plight to further their hateful sectarian agendas. Karnataka’s state government is dominated by the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, whose officials have been quick to lambast the Muslim students with all manner of bigoted statements. State Education Minister B.C. Nagesh has called the students’ commitment to wearing hijab “indiscipline.” BJP official Raghupathy Bhat has accused the students of an “international conspiracy.” BJP state chief Nalin Kumar Kateel made the bizarre claim that hijab in schools was a sign of “Talibanisation.” Pramod Muthalikpramo, chief of the Hindu supremacist group Shri Ram Sena, claimed the students have a “terrorist mindset” and told them to “go to Pakistan.”

Some Hindu extremist students have been provoked into turning on their own classmates, marching in protest against the hijab while wearing saffron scarves. The indoctrination of young minds that believes the expression of another faith is somehow a threat to their own augurs ill for the type of education system visualized by Hindutva.

“Hijab is celebrated and respected globally by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Muslim women have competed in and won medals at the Olympics, raised their voices as activists, risen to social media stardom, taken to the screen as reporters, become United Nations ambassadors, and even walked the halls of the US Congress as elected representatives and top aides, all while wearing the hijab,” said Mr. Syed Ali, President of IAMC. “The fact that Hindutva supremacists in India refuse to see hijab as anything more than a tool to rally fellow extremists against Muslims is not only shameful, but indicative of a much deeper malaise plaguing the Hindutva mindset,” added Mr.Ali.

Recently, February 1st was observed as the first annual World Hijab Day, a day that is meant to raise awareness about the reality of hijab, that according to the Islamic faith, cannot be forced upon anyone. Hijab is also more than just a scarf. For millions of Muslim women who freely choose hijab, it is a visible marker of their faith, without in any way being an impediment to their personal empowerment or self-confidence.

The ban on hijab in some schools is reflective of how the supremacist ideology of Hindutva insidiously seeks to afflict every aspect of public life throughout India. Denial of education to women of a specific community in order to compel them to give up a part of their attire, is bigotry and denial of fundamental rights at its worst. This is completely antithetical to the fundamental idea of India as a diverse, multicultural, and multifaith democracy, whose Constitution guarantees every Indian the right to practice their religion.

On the other hand, the heartening show of solidarity for the Muslim students from many people across the faith spectrum shows that the core humanism of India’s traditionally diverse society continues to push back against Hindutva. Celebrities and media personalities have taken to social media to protest the treatment of Muslim students wearing the hijab. Dalit students, who face discrimination on a daily basis for being of a “lower” caste, held a march in support of Muslim women, wearing blue and chanting “Jai Bhim” to show their solidarity. Their admirable courage is a reflection of India’s true Constitutional ideals.

IAMC has called upon the college officials that are attempting to ban the hijab to abandon their discriminatory and Islamophobic policies. IAMC has also urged civil society institutions to take up the cause of protecting the right to education and right to dignity for all students.