US  International Religious Freedom Ambassador Says Karnataka Hijab Ban Violates Religious Freedom - IAMC

US  International Religious Freedom Ambassador Says Karnataka Hijab Ban Violates Religious Freedom

Rashad Hussain, the recently appointed United States ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, slammed the government of Karnataka state over Twitter for infringing on the rights of Muslim women. The state High Court has banned all religious dress in schools, including the hijab, until a final order is passed regarding Karnataka’s raging debate over whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear the hijab to school. 

“Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one’s religious attire. The Indian state of Karnataka should not determine permissibility of religious clothing. Hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom and stigmatize and marginalize women and girls,” Hussain tweeted.

In response, India’s ministry of external affairs issued a statement saying, “Motivated comments on our internal issues are not welcome.” India’s statement belittles the humiliation being inflicted on Muslim women as multiple videos have emerged, showing school faulty stopping Muslim students and teachers at school gates and forcing them to remove their hijabs before entering. Some Muslim students have boycotted going to school entirely, with 13 Muslim students skipping an exam at a school where they were told they would be segregated from their Hindu classmates for wearing the hijab. 

While prohibitory orders have been imposed on one Karnataka district, protests continue to rage across India. In Kerala state, hundreds of Muslim women flooded the streets, chanting, “Hands off my hijab” and “This is state oppression.” Meanwhile, anti-hijab policies have erupted in Madhya Pradesh state, where one student was forced to write a statement promising to never wear the hijab to school again after students associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other Hindu extremist groups protested. These extremist groups have grown increasingly bold, including in Karnataka, where leaders of the dangerous extremist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) blatantly called for a full ban on hijab and claimed that Karnataka’s chief minister supported them.

48 Journalists Assaulted, 66 Booked, 12 Killed In Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh 

Under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a vitriolic Hindu supremacist and a close ally of Modi, the Uttar Pradesh state has seen 48 journalists physically assaulted, 66 booked or arrested, and 12 killed, according to a report released by the Committee Against Assault on Journalists, collective of India-based media and civil society groups. The report collected data between 2017, the year Adityanath was elected, and February 2022, revealing that 78% of these attacks were recorded in 2020 and 2021 alone.

Adityanath and other BJP leaders are known for their vicious suppression of press freedoms in India, which has a low ranking of 142 on the World Press Freedom Index. 

According to Reporters Without Borders, a global watchdog, “In 2020, the [Modi] government took advantage of the coronavirus crisis to step up its control of news coverage by prosecuting journalists providing information at variance with the official position. The situation is still very worrying in Kashmir, where reporters are often harassed by police and paramilitaries and must cope with utterly Orwellian content regulations, and where media outlets are liable to be closed, as was the case with the valley’s leading daily, the Kashmir Times.”

BJP Leader Spews Anti-Muslim Hate Speech, Says If He Is Re-Elected, Muslims Will Start Dressing Like Hindus 

BJP leader Raghvendra Pratap Singh was caught on video spewing anti-Muslim vitriol and making repeated hateful remarks during his election campaign in Uttar Pradesh state. 

“Will there be Jai Shri Ram (Hindu religious slogan) or Walekum Salam (Muslim greeting)?” he asked a crowd of his supporters, who cheered him on and shouted Hindu religious slogans in response. 

He added, “If you make me MLA again, Muslims will stop wearing skullcaps and start putting tilaks,” implying that Muslims would be driven to convert to Hinduism under his rule. 

He also falsely claimed that Uttar Pradesh has become safer since Muslims were driven away from power, referring to Muslims as “goons” and “notorious criminals.” However, Uttar Pradesh has become a hotbed of Hindu extremism, where extremists are regularly emboldened by BJP leaders to attack Muslims and Christians and call for mosque demolitions. 

Hindu Extremists Threaten To Drown Out Muslim Calls To Prayer By Blasting Music From Loudspeakers

In a viral video filmed in Madhya Pradesh state, a group of Hindu extremists threatened to drown out calls to prayer made from mosques by blasting music from loudspeakers.

“Whenever the azan (call to prayer) will play, we will play music louder on the loudspeaker,” one extremist said, pointing at a mosque in the background. “Make this video viral, this message should go across India.”

According to the Wire, an Indian news publication, the video went viral two days after members of the extremist group Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM), which is affiliated to the paramilitary Hindu supremacist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), submitted a memorandum at a local police station seeking a ban on azan with loudspeakers. Shortly after, police ordered the mosque to lower the volume of their loudspeakers, and also removed a loudspeaker installed by young Hindu extremists on the roof of a nearby building. 

Despite the blatant attempt by Hindu extremists to intimidate Muslims, no action has been taken against the extremists for making the threats. 

Over 26,400 Sign Petition Against Karnataka’s Draconian Anti-Conversion Bill

Over 26,400 people have signed a petition by the National Solidarity Forum (NSF), an advocacy organization, calling for Karnataka state’s proposed anti-conversion bill to be repealed. The petition slams India’s anti-conversion laws, which have been passed in several states, as being anti-minority and misogynistic weapons used by Hindu extremists to target Muslims, Christians, and Dalits for choosing and practicing their religion.

“Wherever the anti-conversion law, ironically officially called Freedom of Religion Act, was passed, it became a justification for the persecution of the minorities and other marginalized identities,” the petition states. 

“A Dalit converted to Christianity or Islam loses the reservation and protection from the State,” said Ajay Kumar Singh, a Co-Convenor of NSF. “This law itself acts as an inducement to remain in Hinduism and violates the individual’s right to choose one’s own religion. It treats them as objects, who cannot decide for themselves.”

“The law disrespects women, and places restrictions for a woman to choose her partner,” said Vidya Dinkar, human rights activist and a core team member of NSF, referring to the way anti-conversion laws are used by Hindu extremists to prevent Hindu women from marrying Muslim men. “It is conceived with a notion that women in India are not in a position to think on their own and act on their own.”

Prominent signatories of the petition include Admiral L Ramdas, Former Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy; accomplished dancer & choreographer Mallika Sarabhai; documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan; Rev. Peter Machado, Archbishop of Bangalore; and Harsh Mander, Nobel Peace Prize nominee. 

Opposition Leader Shashi Tharoor Demands Release of Muslim Journalists Arrested in Kashmir, U.P.

Senior opposition leader Shashi Tharoor urged Union Minister Amit Shah, a Hindu supremacist and ally of Modi, to expedite the immediate release of Muslim journalists Sajad Gul, Fahad Shah, and Siddique Kappan, who were arrested under India’s draconian anti-terror laws.  

“I’ve raised the issue of press freedom in Parliament. Journalists are being arrested for doing their job. Two Kashmiri journalists have been arrested. This is a really dangerous situation,” Tharoor said. 

On Twitter, he added, “India is down to 142nd in the World Press Freedom Index. Release them and preserve our democracy!”

Gul, a Kashmiri journalist, was detained in January for tweeting a video of a protest and charged with “criminal conspiracy.” Shah, the founding editor of ‘The Kashmir Walla’ news portal, was arrested on February 4 for “sedition” and “glorifying terrorist activities” in his reporting. Kappan  was arrested in October 2021 for “sedition,” “promoting enmity between groups,” and “knowingly holding property derived or obtained from the commission of a terrorist act.” He was arrested while on his way to Hathras, a district in Uttar Pradesh, to report on the brutal rape and murder of a teenaged Dalit girl.