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Monday, August 24, 2009

Ban on headscarf in Indian college Vs British police


Just a few months back it was a schoolboy's beard that was at the centre of a controversy.

Now it's headscarf that is generating a debate. A college in Karnataka's Mangalore district has ruled that the headscarf is unwelcome.

This is in sharp contrast to what British police authorities recently did: designing hijab for policewomen.

Non-Muslim White women officials have been told by the department to cover their heads like Muslim women when entering a mosque. Even the headscarf has been designed to match the police uniform.

British policewomen wear headscarves, Indian Muslim student gets banned!

The British are surely going extra mile even though the Muslim population in England is just 2.4 million [24 lakh] or 3% and their country doesn't have an Islamic heritage of more than a century.

There are districts like Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh), Malappuram (Kerala) and Murshidabad (West Bengal)--each having more than 24 lakh Muslims. That's to give an indication of our Islamic population in a country that has 800-odd districts.

However, it's not about population. Here in India where Islam is as much part of our culture [and an Indian religion] for over 1200 years, and where even burqa is part of social life and customs, the denial of hijab or mere 'headscarf' does appear excessively insensitive.

Strangely, what happens far away in West, seems to find its echo in a more pronounced form in India. However, we have a penchant for controversies.

The college authorities had no problem with hijab when Ayesha took admission. There was no rule to prevent her from wearing the scarf but the principal later made a false claim that it was mentioned in the rules.

The pressure of a section of student leaders led to change in the stand. The girl, Ayesha, however had confronted the student leader and had retorted that she would not stop wearing the scarf. She even outwitted him by saying that she had no problem wearing a saffron headscarf.

Initiallly, the girl was asked not to wear headscarf to class. Later she was told that it was not allowed even on campus. Then she was followed and there were vulgar comments, even physical attacks.

Even lecturers were unhelpful and often sarcastic. And the incident at SVS College Bantwal is not a solitary case. This is happening across the colleges in Dakshin Kannada district and elsewhere. Tehelka correspondent Sanjana's report sheds more light on it.

The college principal later said that under no circumstances the girl could be allowed to set foot on the campus while keeping her head covered, as it was against the college's 'dress code'. The Sri Venkataramana Swamy college is located in Mangalore district.

In the last couple of years, the City that once known for its tolerance and affluence, has seen communal riots and rise in tension among Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Read an earliest post on school imposing ban on beard.

More on Mangalore soon, in another post.