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Friday, December 9, 2022

SC delivers split verdict on ‘Hijab in school’ demand instigated by PFI, CJI to decide

The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered a split verdict on a clutch of petitions challenging the Karnataka government’s February 5 order, prohibiting wearing of hijab inside classrooms in pre-university colleges.

The judgment was delivered by a bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia. Justice Gupta dismissed the appeals challenging the Karnataka High Court judgment, whereas Justice Dhulia set aside the high court judgment.

The petitioners had moved the apex court challenging the Karnataka High Court verdict refusing to lift the ban on hijab in educational institutions of the state. Justice Dhulia said he has a different view and he is allowing the appeal against the high court judgment. “It (wearing hijab) is ultimately a matter of choice, nothing more, nothing else,” he said.

Justice Dhulia said venturing into essential religious practice was not needed and the high court ‘took the wrong way’. He added that one thing which was topmost for him was ‘education of girl children’. Justice Dhulia added that a girl child in areas does household work and chores before going to school and are we making her life any better by imposing an additional restriction on her?

Justice Hemant Gupta said in view of divergent opinion, let the matter be placed before the Chief Justice of India for appropriate directions. Detailed judgment in the matter will be uploaded later in the day. The judgment would mean the restrictions on hijab in classrooms as per the state government’s February 5 order would continue for now.

After 10 days of marathon hearing, on September 22 the top court had reserved the judgment for Thursday. The bench heard the arguments from the counsels representing the state government, teachers, and the petitioners, who moved the apex court challenging the Karnataka High Court verdict refusing to lift the ban on hijab in educational institutions of the state.

The demand by a small minority of Muslims girls to wear hijab in Karnataka state-run schools and PU colleges, going against well-established school uniform policy, was presented as an ‘organic’ demand by mainstream media. But it later emerged that CFI, the student wing of the now banned Islamist terror outfit PFI, and SIO (student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami) were pulling the strings from behind.

Hindu girl students also voiced their opposition to this demand for hijab in classrooms, which Islamists claim is essential to preserve ‘modesty’ of girls. In the words of one such student – “They claim that they wear Hijab because of the bad-mannered looks of the male students. Are we not girls too? Don’t we need protection? What about (Hindu) girls?”

She also asked the authorities about what is the purpose of making a common uniform for all the students? “It means that everybody is equal. In a college or school, all students are equal. If they (Muslims) can be allowed to wear Hijab, we will also wear saree, kumkum, and flowers,” she added.

The row over this issue escalated into usual Islamist mob violence in Karnataka and other parts of the country, and also led to death of at least one Hindu youth, Harsha.

Rational Muslim voices also spoke out against this political demand for minor girls to be clad in hijab within classrooms. Many pointed out how hijab and burqa are gradually enforced through peer pressure and other intimidatory tactics by Islamist radicals and hardline clerics, and while women in Islamic nations are fighting for the right to be freed of this imposition, we in Bharat are moving in the opposite direction.

The fact that Muslim women in Bharat are free to wear hijab and burqa in public spaces, and it was only in schools where minor girls were being asked to adhere to a standard uniform code; the fact that in 2019 the Muslim Educational Society (MES), a Kerala-based outfit which runs around 150 educational institutions in the state and the Middle-East, banned the hijab in all its institutions…all of this was lost in the din created by left-liberal media and intelligentsia.

Now, with this split judgement, Justice Dhulia has delivered a shot in the arm for the Islamist agenda. As non-partisan Muslim observers have pointed out, the paternalistic liberal discourse in Bharat has only helped in institutionalising minorityism and prevented mainstreaming of the minority. Or in the words of Amina Begam Ansari, “self-claimed liberal Hindus love Islamist Muslims pretending to be liberal.”

(With IANS inputs)

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