Hindu nationalists justify Hijab school ban pointing to protests in Iran
Appearing before India’s Supreme Court, a senior Indian government official cited ongoing protests in Iran over Mahsa Amini’s death as evidence that the hijab is “not essential”, that to protect India’s secularism, it should not be worn with school uniforms. Some 2,000 intellectuals sign a letter against the ban, which they deem “a hate crime”.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – During a hearing in the Supreme Court of India over a hijab ban in schools, a senior Indian government official defended the prohibition citing ongoing protests in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died from injuries inflicted by Iran’s “morality police” because she did not wear the hijab correctly
Acting on behalf of the State of Karnataka, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta defended the ban. This follows an appeal by a group of Islamic associations to the country’s highest court after the High Court of Karnataka last March upheld the ban on female students wearing the hijab, arguing that it is incompatible with the school uniform.
The issue has sparked protests and exacerbated tensions with the Muslim community in one of the states of India ruled by Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Solicitor General Mehta argued that India is a secular country and that even in constitutionally Islamic countries such as Iran, not all women wear the hijab, indeed, many are fighting against it. He added that according to the Qur'an itself, the hijab “it is permissible, not essential”.
For its part, the Supreme Court noted that it must be “proved beyond doubt that the wearing of the hijab was a threat to public order, public health or morality”.
During the hearing, Mr Mehta slammed the Popular Front of India (PFI), alleging that the protest “movement was designed to create agitation", using social media to urge women to wear the hijab.
For the solicitor general, had the state government not acted the way it did, it would have been "guilty of dereliction of constitutional duty”.
Several appeals have been filed with the Supreme Court against the High Court's ruling that wearing the hijab is not part of the essential religious practices protected by Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.
In February, in the wake of the controversy over the ban in Karnataka, some 2,000 intellectuals penned an open letter in solidarity with Muslim schoolgirls.
“The ban on hijab in classrooms and campuses in coastal Karnataka, which is now spreading to other states, is a hate crime," their letter reads.
The “Uniform in such institutions is meant to minimise the differences between students. They are not intended to impose cultural uniformity on a plural country,” it added.