08/19/2009, 00.00
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Hindu students against Muslim girl kept out of class for wearing a headscarf

by Nirmala Carvalho
The case involves the Sri Venkatarama Swamy College in Bantwal, near Mangalore. School regulations do not impose any ban but the student’s classmates and the school principal object to her “half-burqa”, seen as a provocative religious symbol.
Mangalore (AsiaNews) – Aysha Asmin, a Muslim student at the Sri Venkatarama Swamy College (SVS) in Bantwal, near Mangalore (Karnataka), cannot go to class wearing a traditional Islamic headscarf. Hindu students object to it.

Aysha, a first year student at SVS College, arrived at the school on 11 July, the first day of the new academic year, her head covered in accordance with Islamic precepts.  

School regulations ban black dhotis traditionally worn by followers of the Hindu deity Ayyappan but are silent with regards to headcovers for Muslims.

The matter came to the fore because of objections by some of her classmates. For them Aysha’s headcover was a provocative religious symbol. They demanded the school order the female student to remove it in class, which is what the school did on 6 August.

A meeting between the student’s parents and SVS College Principal Sitaram Mayya did not solve the matter.

In fact the principal said that Aysha did not wear a headscarf but a “half-burqa” and that the ban was imposed to avoid tensions among students.

Events at the college in Bantwal have caught the attention of public opinion in the State of Karnataka where Muslim-Hindu relations are often tense and controversial.

In many cities and villages an unwritten law prevents young people from the two religious groups from speaking to one another in public.

Women are especially affected by this climate since they tend to be victims of violence and discrimination by the more fundamentalist fringe groups in the two religions.

Aysha is not the only Muslim female student in that college. There are three other female Muslim students in her class but they submitted to the principal’s order. They “stopped wearing a scarf after being threatened,” she said.

Aysha said she had no intention of tarnishing the image of the college but added that she would fight for her right to cover her head and get an education.

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