HIJAB ROW: The Battle of ‘Code’ versus ‘Choice’

Politics is one of the most ‘TRICKIEST’ things in the world. You won’t even know when you are inside a battle and at the end, you would just wonder, when the hell did I come to this? Believe it or not, that’s what happened with me in the ongoing HIJAB row. I never for once thought in my life that I would be extending my support to the side of a ‘Hijab’. But, the current case, and yes a politically motivated one indeed has brought the whole country into a different debate and fight altogether. So, let us try to understand the whole story of Hijab and then decide what can and should be done.

A Brief History of Hijab

If we look into the QURAN; “Surah 24, Verse 31”, mentions in three different verses for the women to draw upon their garments, dress modestly and wear a scarf on heads, tucked behind ears and flowing behind back called KHIMAR. Interestingly, the word ‘Hijab’ in the Quran appears not as a scarf or covering, but as a barrier or seclusion. Then, in Sura 33:53, it is stated for the men to ask their wives from behind a ‘Partition’ as it will make both of theirs hearts purer. Now, this very line can be considered as the ‘seed’ of the ‘Purdah’ system in Islam.

headscarf types cheap onlineNow, there are several and clear mentions in the Quran that not just women, but men as well should be ‘covering’ their heads. Yes, you heard it right. In fact, it is also mentioned that if a man doesn’t do prayer with his head covered, his prayer is nullified. If you look at any historic movie, books or pictures of Arabic Muslims, you will find the heads covered in the case of both men and women. Here, one possible reason for head covering is said the excessive heat in the Arabic countries. So, when we look at the evolution, we get to see that though the women have been kept under a Burqa, Hijab, Purdah, the men no longer follow them.

It is nothing but once again an example of ‘Patriarchy’ imposed upon a woman. On expected lines, men in every religion, get away with old orthodox things attached, but women are left behind to follow the brunt. Now, what is left to be said, when the Quran itself says that the “Girl should not be exposing her neckline to any man except her husband”. Now, it need not be said how misogynist and orthodox this thinking is. Again, with all due respect, I am not insulting any religion, but it’s just that these things were written way back in some 500-600 AD and its relevance today should only be decided as of today. But, here one more thing should be mentioned, Quran puts the onus on men before women. It first asks the men to keep their eyes low on women, kind of ‘purdah of eyes’. It is only after that does the purdah of a woman finds any mention.

A Look over the Current Case

The whole controversy erupted after 6 girls of a college in the Udupi district of Karnataka came wearing Hijab. The college gave them a warning as they have a dress code. But, the students kept on coming wearing Hijab calling it their constitutional right. After a few days, the gates of the colleges were closed right on them, that too by the college principal himself. This continued as a routine, the girls used to come, plead for going in, but the gates remained closed. After a few more days, they were allowed to enter the college but were kept in a separate classroom altogether. Now, all this suddenly ignited the ‘Hidden Hindu’ among the Hindu students and they too started coming wearing saffron shawls and chanting the usual ‘Jai Shri Ram’.

Udupi girl students to attend classes with hijab, defying govt order | Deccan Herald

All of this further ignited the religious sentiments and those protesting for the Hijab were stiffly contested by those wearing saffron shawls. In one incident, a whole mob in saffron chased a lone girl named Muskan in Burqa, continuously harassing her by shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’. The girl fought back shouting “Allah-o-Akbar”. Further videos came of the mob in saffron shawls entering inside classes making rounds, creating chaos and even installing Saffron Flag inside the campus. Interestingly, forget about the dress code that the colleges were boasting, even the simple ‘discipline code’ seemed on holiday during all this. This started a trend in other colleges of the state and even in the country. Now, even the colleges not having a dress code have started barring students from entering in Hijab.

What is Actually Worrying

Firstly, just imagine in a college, some fellow students are not being allowed to enter, they are continuously pleading but for no return. As a fellow student, one should have felt sympathetic towards them, but in return what do we see? The whole group starts boasting off their own religion. They are somehow showing that “HA HA…we are able to wear our religion…but you can’t”. I mean, just imagine the level of hate and toxicity that is existing even at such a young age. Even if all this resolves, do you think these students will be able to stay together ever again? A permanent divide will occur and only ‘same religion’ people will be together.

Secondly, the godamn politics. The sudden desire of the girls to wear hijab, when they weren’t wearing it earlier. The involvement of The CAMPUS FRONT OF INDIA (CFI), the Islamic student organisation and POPULAR FRONT OF INDIA (PFI), the extremist Islamic organisation into the matter, clearly indicates how deeply politics has got involved in this. The same goes down for the students coming in saffron shawls. There has been video evidence of Hindu organisations funding them with saffron materials and guiding them about the day’s plan. Now, I don’t need to specify which party will be benefitting from this atmosphere.

Assertion Under Attack

Also, it should be observed that whenever a community feels it is under attack, it asserts itself. It tries to show that it can wear its religion on its sleeve and still achieve success. That is exactly what is happening today. The Muslims are constantly feeling or I can say are being made to feel like ‘Second Class Citizens’. This only is making them express their religious belief more stringently. Well, for that the credit goes to our great ruling party and its right extremist Hindu organisations who with the help of tools like Lynchings, CAA-NRC, Genocide Calls have made this possible. The response of the leaders is also icing on the cake in making Muslims believe that.

Swara Bhasker (@ReallySwara) / Twitter

The Question of Choice and Modernity

Now, we know that almost every religion has its scriptures that were written at a time, which is not relevant today. So, logically many things would fall apart and wouldn’t hold any significance today. But, at the end of the day, it boils down to one word called ‘Choice’. A person only will be deciding what level of modernity and orthodoxies will he keep in his life. It won’t be an exaggeration in saying that Muslims are the most possessive and dedicated to their religion. But, there are many Muslims who don’t wear Hijab, don’t keep a long beard and some don’t even do Namaz five times a day. But, at the same time, there are many who do.

I am not just talking about our country. Many people belonging to the Muslim community who are in high positions, even in foreign countries do keep beards/wear Hijab. So, ultimately it is their choice only…isn’t it? Can we say that someone who is in such a high position is not modern? A lady professor wearing Hijab or a male professor with a beard, teaching at an international university isn’t modern?  Who can define the line of modernity here? So, whether do I believe in their choices or not, it doesn’t matter, because however orthodox their choices may be, at the end of the day, it’s their own choice.

If any of you watch Cricket, you must have seen many Muslim players like Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali, Usman Khwaja, get off the champagne celebration because Alcohol is prohibited in Islam. And for a fact, Moeen Ali even requested the alcohol logo removed from his CSK jersey. But, we can’t call them names, can we? They are reputed sportspersons representing their respective countries but are also very dedicated to their religions, whether you call it orthodox, so be it. We can see the example of NEW ZEALAND, where police officers were allowed to hear Hijab respect their religious choice. We can also look at the recent announcement of the International Boxing Federation of allowing the female boxers to fight wearing Hijab, again respecting their choices.

What do I think?

If you ask me I am not in favour of Hijab, and these kinds of stuff at all, but the fact is that I am an ATHEIST. I don’t believe in many things including God. Then whether it is Hijab, Burqa, Ghoonghat, Sindoor or anything else you can remember. All these are patriarchal stuff, forced upon a girl right from her childhood. Despite how much, one says that it is a choice, at the end of the day it’s Patriarchy only. And then there are people who were comparing a girl without a Hijab to a sweet without a packet on which ants can prey easily. They are toxic patriarchs and their misogynist ideas should be kept out of this debate. So, I am saying again and again that I am NOT in support of Hijab, but when it comes to respecting one’s choices I would extend my support to these girls only. If someone is forcing a girl to wear a Hijab…I am against the Hijab and if someone wearing Hijab is forced to remove it…I am in favour of the girl. There is a very thin line between ‘supporting Hijab’ and ‘supporting those wanting to come in Hijab’. Unfortunately, almost everyone is ignoring this THIN LINE.

Hijab row] No religious garments till we decide the case, will pass interim order: Karnataka High

The Ball is in the Court

The legal experts were pointing, out that once the case goes into court, it will drag for very long. The reason is the court will have to be very sure, where they have to draw the line. We can understand this in the following points:

  1. Drawing the Line: If Hijab is allowed, then it might happen that some students also start pressing the demand of coming in a Burqa and some even start doing Namaz inside the campus only. Also, Muslim men in the army or other professional posts can also demand keeping a long beard, which will be against the code of conduct. So, the court needs to be sure exactly what is to be allowed and what is to be not.
  2. Relevance Today: If Hijab is not allowed saying ‘no relevance today’, the same point can be taken against the ‘turban’ and ‘kirpan’ of the Sikhs. Sikhs were asked to carry the stuff at a time when they were under threat from the Mughals, which is not the case today. So, the ‘today’s relevance’ claim needs to be used very carefully.
  3. Essential Practice: Our Constitution, under ARTICLE 13 allows the room for the religion to have essential religious practice. This only has allowed the Sikhs to keep turban even over uniforms. So, the question will boil down to whether ‘Hijab’ is an essential religious practice in Islam or not? But, all essential practices can’t and shouldn’t be allowed? Can we allow something like Halala or Polygamy if mentioned as ‘essential practice’? What if someone comes up with a new religion tomorrow where roaming nude in public places is an ‘essential practice’, can we allow that? Here, again it is very very difficult to draw the line, what exactly should be allowed and what shouldn’t.

So, as we can understand, this case is expected to be dragged a lot. There are many sides and many arguments from both sides. It’s all like a vicious loop, where we can’t find an end. So, the ball is in the court and let’s hope that the right judgement is reached.


Let Girls Study in Peace

In my personal opinion, there was no reason to stop the girls in the first place. I mean, they are just wearing a Hijab, not a Burqa. Yes, I know there is a dress code in the college, but if someone is wearing a uniform and putting a Hijab (which is more or less a headscarf) over it, is it really that big a deal? Doesn’t ‘HAVAN’ and ‘SHLOKAS’ take place in schools even when some Muslim students are there?  Okay, consider it like this. What will happen if we don’t allow these girls to study wearing a Hijab. If they are coming from an orthodox Muslim family, either their schooling will be stopped or they will be sent to Madarsa. We are not helping anybody here except the Madarsas. But, if we allow them, they will study, get educated, might even get decent jobs in life. Now, when she will have a daughter, she might not keep her in a Hijab, because she is educated and modern. Maybe, one or two generations from now, even those coming in Hijab won’t wear it. But, we need to give time and space to them. And that can only happen if we ‘LET THEM STUDY’.

And…the BJP and the Hindu Right Wing should be the last people to talk about modernity and women’s dignity over religion. Aren’t they the same people who go against the Supreme Court judgement when it comes to the Sabarimala as they can’t accept a menstruating girl inside the temple? Also, isn’t it the same group that harasses couples who are together by their choice, by acting as the Moral Police, as they can’t accept a girl’s right to choose her partner? Aren’t they the same group who are actively found in support of rapists and against the victims? Lastly, what defines their harassing the Muslim girl in a mob, that too chanting the name of the figure who the history remembers as ‘MARYADA PURUSHOTTAM’ (I hope I don’t need to specify the meaning). It is not very hard to understand, that it is a political game altogether orchestrated by our Dark Lord’s party. I am not bothered by the politics happening. All I am concerned about is the education of the girls. The debate over Hijab CANNOT be greater than their right to education and we can’t bar them from studying over petty politics. We surely deserve BETTER.


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