By: Kayhan Int’l Staff Writer
February 1 was observed as ‘World Hijab Day’, not in Muslim societies where most women wear modest clothes in public and cover their hairs, but in the non-Muslim world where of late women have begun to discover the beauty and the benefits of putting on a headscarf while out of the privacy of their homes, without bothering anyone and without getting bothered.
This is neither a revolutionary approach nor a rigid act of religiosity. This is in fact, a commendable choice by women in accordance with innate feminine nature to protect self-dignity and guard themselves from unnecessary looks, glances, and whistles of the human wolves prowling in public places to disturb the peace and order of societies.
Moreover, the headscarf or the hijab and whatever you like to call it, is revival of cultural values of the Christian West, as well as of the Buddhist and Hindu East where women throughout history have been known to put on veils and cover their heads in a fashionable manner before the industrialization of the machine age has unfortunately eroded these age-old norms.
This has led to widespread social ills, especially the forced unveiling of women by unprincipled politicians who have intentionally or unintentionally turned their wives, sisters, daughters, and even mothers into commercial and carnal objects, on the pretext of ill-defined freedom and liberties.
In India, Hindu women have traditionally donned the “ghoongat” – a kind of head covering in public – and this widespread practice even today in the rural parts is greatly respected by the people.
It is the choice of women and is definitely not a hindrance to any social role they intend to or ought to play, while pursuing education at schools and colleges, or at working in order to create and preserve a healthy atmosphere.
In view of these undeniable facts, recently a misconstrued move by a college in the southern Indian state of Karnataka to ban girls (read Muslim) wearing hijab from attending classes has stirred up a controversy that is being politicized by anarchist elements who over the past few decades have created an atmosphere of Islamophobia by infiltrating the administrative and government apparatuses.
It is not known whether the authorities of that particular college in Udipi district allowed themselves to be duped by misconstrued measures in France against Hijab at educational centres, or whether they were ordered by hate-mongering politicians to take such a blundering decision, the move threatens to spiral out of control and spread all over the country.
India is a polyglot country with the largest number of Muslims in any land, numbering over three hundred million and accounting for 25 percent of the national population, while the other 75 percent is made up of the Hindu majority and the tens of millions of Dalits, followed by such minorities as Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians, and several other religions.
It is a nation famous for its unity in diversity and its spirit of brotherhood amongst the various religions, sects, cultures, languages, and customs. It owes its development and progress to the non-violent spirit of its founding fathers, such as Mahatama Gandhi and Jawaherlal Nehru, who in alliance with their Muslim compatriots, won independence from British colonialism.
Therefore, it is unfortunate for the petty politicians of today who definitely will not be remembered by history, except in negative terms, to destroy the fabric of national unity, either through their silence or by dragging of the issue of hijab at educational centres to the courts.
The wisest move in the interests of not just Karnatala State but all of India is to nip the controversy in the bud by cancelling the unwise decision of the college authorities and allowing Hijab-clad girls to attend classes before anarchic elements succeed in their nefarious designs to tear apart the country.