The Karnataka High Court has dismissed various petitions demanding the right to wear hijab in educational institutions. The order was delivered by a 3 judge bench comprising Chief Justice (CJ) Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Jaibunnisa Mohiuddin Khazi and Justice Krishna S Dixit.
As per Bar and Bench, while delivering the judgement CJ Awasthi stated – “We have formulated few questions and have answered: 1. Whether wearing hijab is essential religious practice under Islam? 2. Whether wearing hijab is freedom of expression and right to privacy? 3. Whether GO (Government Order) of February 5 was issued without application of mind and manifestly arbitrary?
“Answers: – Wearing of hijab by Muslim women is not part of essential religious practice under Islam. Prescription of school uniform is a reasonable restriction on the right to freedom of expression, which students cannot object to. Government has power to issue GO.”
As some legal experts have pointed out, the whole question of hijab being essential to Islam was a diversionary tactic that courts should have avoided, as judiciary is not equipped to decide on what is essential religious practice. The core issue at hand here was the right of govt. educational institutions to decide on their uniform/dress policy in consultation with stakeholders, which the Muslim petitioners were looking to abruptly overturn through pressure tactics.
It is also pertinent to note that Hijab has not been banned in public places or even in private schools which choose to enforce it like madrasas. It has just been disallowed in govt. schools/junior colleges and other educational institutions that have specific dress codes. So we should beware of propaganda that hijab has been ‘banned’.
Another point to be celebrated in this judgement was raised by journalist and social worker Swati Goel Sharma, “Male lawyers argued in front of a woman Muslim judge, who does not do purdah, that all Muslim women must do purdah else they aren’t true Muslims or will burn in eternal hellfire The woman judge, JM Khazi, rejected their arguments Tell me, what is not to celebrate in this?”
Last December, the demand for wearing hijab in classrooms had arisen in some junior colleges in southern Karnataka. A handful of Muslim girls raised this sudden demand in a govt college in Udupi, to overturn existing uniform dress code that had been in place for years. It later became clear that these girls were either linked to members of the radical Islamist outfit PFI and its student wing CFI, or had been ‘counselled’ by them.
The majority of Muslim girls studying in those institutions had no issue with the existing uniform policy, but soon the issue caught fire and social pressure grew on other girl students too to don the hijab and behave like ‘true Muslims’. Indian mainstream media added fuel to the fire and flipped the issue, misleadingly terming it a ‘ban on hijab’ and concocting a Muslim victimhood narrative. Hindu-bashing Western and Arabic media outlets also amplified the ‘Muslims under attack’ narratvie.
As the Islamist side dug in its heels, a Hindu response emerged with several students donning saffron scarves to school. PFI cadre grew increasingly aggressive, pelting stones outside schools when authorities refused admission to both Hindu and Muslim students not dressed in accordance with school policy. Violence erupted in several parts of Karnataka over the issue, which soon reached the courts wit the Islamist side being represented by Congress ecosystem lawyers who argued that wearing hijab is an .
A Hindu teacher was hit on the head with an iron rod and other Hindu students also suffered injuries, and videos emerged of Islamist thugs threatening to cut Hindu college authorities into pieces if they didn’t cave into their demands.
Hindu youth Harsha was brutally murdered over a social media post supporting the uniform dress policy, although it later emerged that he had been on a hit list for some time due to his selfless advocacy of nationalist causes.
The issue quickly spread to other Islamist-dominated pockets of states like Maharashtra, MP, UP, Rajasthan etc, indicating a well-oiled machinery at work and raising suspicions that the issue was timed to galvanize Muslim voters with the usual ‘Islam khatre mein hai‘ (Islam is under threat) trope for key state elections.
Banners of Muslim women dressed ‘modestly’ covered from head to toe in burqa (not hijab i.e. head-cover) sprung up, with not-so-subtle messaging that any girl not covered up like this was ‘shameless and dirty’. Indoctrinated girls were heard shouting that hijab is their priority, not education.
The Karnataka HC verdict is welcome as it shows the Indian state has resisted the usual bullying tactics of Islamists supported by the secular cabal. However, it is likely to be appealed in Supreme Court, so we probably haven’t heard the last of this issue.