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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.


Ashish said...

well, then, may eb this girl should migrate to UK!

syahi said...

muslims are dying to get educated in' others' institutions.If they really are serious about their 'culture'and ethics; they must open more institution of all kinds.Then only they ll be free to observe the dress or language or ethical codes whatever they want?
just protesting and making hue and cry will not give anything except a bad name to them.

Pinku said...

Thats so sad....are these Mangaloreans nuts???

first they don't allows girls to wear short dresses and enter a pub ...next they don't want them to dress modestly and enter a college ....what are the girls supposed to do??

Sit home and cook dinner for the maharathis??

haSan faTula said...

Kenapa terlalu cetek pemikiran comment 1. Ini menunjukkan bukan Islam di UK open-minded dan di India bukan Islam tidak open-minded. Seperti katak bawah tempurung.

Sid said...

I am a Hindu, and I fully support Aysha in this case and oppose ABVP pushing this kind of thing too far. To me, burqa is too medieval and obtrusive, but hijab, on the other hand, is not only unobtrusive, but also looks nice on most women.

On burqas, it's a dated Muslim custom basically rooted in conservative Muslim men not wanting "their" women to be seen and lusted upon by other men. When you want the rest of the society to evolve and be more liberal, Muslim customs also need to get liberalized in keeping with the times. Another interesting story I have read about was how some terrorists in Af-Pak escaped under the cover of burqas. So, burqas do present a certain level of legitimate security threat, especially given that India continues to be a victim of terrorist groups based in Pakistan.

That's why I am pro-hijab, but against face-covering burqa usage in public areas.

A parallel question is how Hindus and other minorities are getting treated in Pakistan, Bangladesh and other Islamic countries. It would be equitable and helpful if you could provide some coverage to that side of the equation on your blog, IndScribe.

Sudarshan Bengani said...

Little Ayesha can go whereever she wants to. But wearing religion on your sleeves is simply not done. There exists a community in Rajasthan which refrains from wearing any clothes. Does it mean that they can walk into the classes in nude, simply because their religion demands so? Or should we allow the Sikhs to attend classes with Kripan in tow? Or may be, the students with tribal origins be allowed to bring totems and harpoons into the classes!!

Religion is a matter of personal domain and should be practised accordingly. If some individuals have an issue with that, they simply need to be quarantined. The country has bigger issues to deal with than Little Ayesha's Black scarf. Period.



Saif said...

It is really amazing how people are responding to Burqa issue.
Well the most pertinent question in this whole episode is :
>Remembering that India is a secular country, can a education institute ban any garment that is used to conceal ones body parts, in this case headgear, irrespective of who is wearing it.. a Sikh, Christian or a Muslim?
As there are many who support wearing it, there are also others who are willing to oppose ;
It is really abhorring, as , as a Secular society we are not ready to accept religious differences.
Also Burqa bashers' fail to understand ,there is a difference between not wearing at-all & being fully covered.

Saif said...

Respite for those who want to wear a Burqa :

Anonymous said...

Well perhaps you arent aware that many schools in India dont allow its students to wear tilaks, sacreds threads on the hands or any religious mala around their necks. At least all the schools and colleges ,I went to dont permit any such open show of religious sentiments by its students 9 and all of these schools were run by hindus).

I never thought of it as any disrespect to my religion where as some of my friends had a problem and they duly shifted to schools where their "religious sentiments" were well taken care of.

And comeon a scarf isnt even a relgious symbol like a kada or the turban which sikhs have to wear.

Stop playing the victim all the time. It is becoming quite clear that all this noise is unjustified.

The same schoolhas also banned its hindu students from wearing any religious things. So its not a big issue at all.

jay said...

Can we Indians ever come out of this? After reading the comments its sad. I have lived most of my life in the west and the writer in the article says it rightly that whatever happens in the west sounds a few folds more in India. I am not Muslim and although i was born in India and lived there for some time we didnt have any Muslims around us. So i was not at all aware of Muslim culture. Even here in the west, i have seen girls in the total burkhas and to me its kinda uncomfortable. Im not disrespecting anybody at all, its just from the safety's point of view. Although, there is no guarantee that the person who is not in burkha is safer than the person in burkha, nobody can judge that unless the tragic incident occurs if it has to be so. Its our human nature that we doubt things more which are hidden, may it even be a person. But if i try to see it from a Muslim's point of view, its all symbolic and it means alot to them. About this girl in headscarf, its a very tough question to answer, if you say she has right to wear whatever she wants and its not some judo class that it is a hurdle in her learning, she has every right to wear whatever she wants, then there will be people who would say that they want to come in how typical hindu brahmins wear, like a doti and nothing on the upper part of the body. I personally think that she has every right to wear whatever she wants, it may be burkha or a bikini. India is such a great country that you have naked pictures of kamasutra carved on the holy temples and here the present society is turning to all these nonsense talks of pointing fingers. Indians will always suffer and they will keep on doing so. Here in the west, nobody cares what you wear, what you eat,who do you live with, and then Indians on the other hand turn and say, oh west doesnt have any culture. Let me tell you, these people also know things which we pretend to have like "respect, shame, etc etc." but here in the west everybody minds their own business since how does it matter to me what my fellow classmate is wearing if my sole concentration and purpose is to study. And then i read on blogs that people comment about Indian Muslims if they are enough of Indians or vice-versa and when i read this i always wonder how dare you ask or even think of this? Even Indian muslim is born in India, made out of the same soil. being Hindu or Sikh or something else doesnt mean you are Indian. We Indians who move in the west sometimes suffer the same situation, as being a white person naturally means they are natives and they somehow can always point fingers at us. So i can be on both ends and see how the game plays I mean, there can be bad people in every religion and society but its not in our hands to use it as a medium of hate and stop our own personal growth. There are no right answers to these things. There will be people answering me back with their "logics" of doing somethings. But really, thank God, i live in the west but if you go to some parts of the city where Indians or desis live you can find trash on the streets, honking horns like they used to back home, no concept of personal space, no concept of getting into lines and stuff. Im very proud of India but ashamed of some Indians. If Indian change their outlook and worry about the things they should be worried about, i guess, no Indian would like to live in the west, after all we are Indians, even if we hate alot of things in our country. No hateful replies please, i understand that west is not perfect but neither is India and as an Indian by soul, i would rather point out whats missing in India and strive for a better country. Gosh when will India change? Enough of these stupid matters.

Sudarshan Bengani said...

@ Jay

I guess you have summarized it very well. That helps me tone down on my earlier comments. And I repeat, the country is faced with bigger issues than debating on head-scarf, saffron shawls, tilaks and beards. There are no winners in this ever-lasting debate on religious quirks and culture-gaps.

In most of the cases, it becomes a sort-of 'ego clash' on either 'one-upmanship' or on 'victimisation'.

But having said that, if everybody around me is in either headscarf, burqaa, dhoti, tilak or whatever, I will be "uncomfortable". It helps everybody if we have OPENNESS TO OTHER CULTURES and keep our religion as a PERSONAL DOMAIN. The boundary - as they say - is a line in sand.


PS: And yes, it is extremely disgusting to question a community's nationalism or even try to counter-compare with how Hindus get treated by our neighbours.

Lokesh said...

Two issues here -

1. Is there anything wrong in wearing a head scarf to college? Does it pose any security threat or makes life difficult for others. I think the answer is No. There is nothing wrong in wearing a head scarf to college.

2. Does the rule of law work? - As far as I know, the constitution doesn't prohibit anyone from wearing a scarf to college, so how can the student leaders / Principal do that? Are we a democracy that follows the law or are we controlled by Holligans?

Jeeshan said...

I am in Britain and am a Dawoodi Bohra. The headscarf issue is also highly controversial here. So first it seems the author has not done proper research on the subject. Britain is one of the few european countries which allows full religious freedom. But this does raise number of questions in the society. The author smartly missed the French point where the president equated Hijab and Burqa with slavery and medieval traditions.

The move by British Police has found a good degree of criticism in tabloid press and Islam Baiters have allready begin fresh protests regarding ban on new immigration. Laws are going to get tougher. When you want to be different then get ready also for other perks that come along with it.

Anonymous said...

those who seek to exhibit their religiosity by wearing scarves, tilaks n all other mumbo jumbo r usually the most corrupt. if religion is a private matter, wearing a scarf or not wearing shouldn't be such a huge issue anyway

Delia-Carmen said...

I wonder why people are so "altruist" and "well intentioned" with decent women...but when it comes about accuses against pornography and other degrading behaviours...everyone shuts up.


Mazhar said...

Religion don't give dress codes but yes, it talks about modesty. How sporting a scarf can conjure trouble but deep neck t-shirts and short skirts not. May be because these are symbol of stylish, broad minded, modernized, affluent persons irrespective of what u actually are. Everyone is aware of prevalent dress sense in colleges of metros. To say "Right is Right" requires courage n confidence.

Kamran said...

Brother, Why is there never a debate preferring men to wear a Hijab?

Bhagwad said...

Deciding whether or not to allow headscarves or other religious symbols isn't easy.

On the one hand, we're a secular society and some items of dress are so prevalent in a particular group that to deny them is out of the question. An example is the Sikh turban.

On the other hand, the purpose of a school uniform is to maintain both symbolic discipline as well as uniformity between students from varying economic backgrounds.

The line to be drawn is rather sensitive. We cannot be overly strict and ban everything - nor can we allow anything either. I honestly don't know an objective way to decide this matter.