Rajat Sharma

Let the courts have the final say on ‘hijab’

rajat-sir Over 61 per cent voters polled for the 55 UP assembly seats on Monday while the turnout was 65.1 per cent for the 70 seats in neighbouring Uttarakhand. More than 78 per cent voters casted their votes for the 40 assembly seats in Goa. However, the main thrust of all mainstream political parties was on the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh.

The nine districts of UP that went to polls on Monday were mostly Muslim-dominated. This was the region where the BJP had performed better in the 2017 assembly polls, winning 38 out of 55 seats, while the Samajwadi Party could only win 15. BJP’s strike rate last time was better because the Muslim vote was divided between SP and BSP, but on Monday, Samajwadi Party leaders claimed that BSP supremo Mayawati was nowhere in the race. For the first time, BJP leaders claimed that they were getting support from Muslim voters too, particularly from Muslim women.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing an election rally in Kanpur rural on Monday, appealed to Muslim voters to support BJP. He claimed that his party was getting votes from Muslim women, who have been silent supporters of his party because of the abolition of triple talaq. He mentioned Muslim women voters several times in his speech.

Modi said, “I know, my Muslim sisters are silently coming out of their homes to bless Modi. My Muslim daughters and sisters know that those who help them in dire need are their true benefactors….We defeated them in 2014, 2017 and 2019, and will again defeat the ‘pariwaarwadis’ (dynastics) in 2022. This year we will celebrate Holi on March 10 (counting day) itself, 10 days before the due date.”

In his speech, Modi reminded Muslim male voters how in the last seven years, his government has made life easier for Muslim girls. “Due to triple talaq, not only were the lives of their daughters and sisters became hell, but it also caused serious problems for fathers and brothers.”

BJP leaders know that normally Muslims do not vote for their party, but in the last UP elections, BJP got nearly eight per cent of Muslim votes. While speaking to our reporters, Muslim voters agreed that they are getting rations on time, there is no more corruption or discrimination in assistance for building houses or getting LPG connections, law and order has improved, their life has overall improved, there are no more communal riots, but these voters also say they will not vote for BJP.

Asked why, while one said, it’s the diktat from the local moulvi, another said, BJP leaders are trying to divide communities on religious lines. BJP leaders remind that it was through abolition of ‘triple talaq’ that married Muslim women are living a life of peace. Yet, nobody is forthcoming on the question, who is trying to create a religious divide between Hindus and Muslims?

On Monday, ‘hijab’ appeared to be an issue among Muslim women voters who went to vote in UP. Our reporters met several of them in Bareilly, Moradabad, Rampur and Badayun and sought their views. Most of them say, wearing of hijab or any dress was a personal choice and the government must not interfere. It will be too early to say how this issue could affect the voting preferences of Muslim women in UP.

In Karnataka, where the ‘hijab’ controversy has spread to most of districts, schools reopened on Monday for students of classes 9 and 10. Many Muslim girls went to schools, wearing ‘hijab’, but at the school gates, they were asked to remove them because of the High Court directive. In Shivmogga, 13 Muslim girl students, along with their parents, argued with the school administration, and insisting on attending classes by wearing ‘hijab’. When the administration said, it could not allow them because of High Court directive, the girls went away and did not attend classes.

In Koppal, Muslim girls were first allowed to sit in classes wearing ‘hijab’, but later, on the district administration’s order, they were asked to remove the veil. Similarly, in a government school in Kalburgi, Muslim girls wearing hijab were allowed in classes, but after the Deputy Commissioner’s order, they were asked to remove their veil. The controversy is spreading to Maharashtra, where in Ausa, near Latur, several thousand Muslim women staged a demonstration under NCP banner demanding they be allowed to wear hijab in educational institutions.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind chief Maualan Arshad Madni has described the ‘hijab’ controversy as unnecessary. He appealed to Muslims to wait for the court verdict. Yoga guru Swami Ramdev said, “it is a personal choice about what to wear and where to live. There should be no controversy on such matters, and all of us should work unitedly to strengthen our nation.”

Swami Ramdev is right when he says, that our nation has moved far ahead of controversies like ‘hijab’. Some vested interests are trying to take political advantage and twisting facts to suit their agenda. While some claim that hijab is compulsory in Islam, and link it with Holy Quran, other Islamic scholars say that nowhere in the holy book has ‘hijab’ been mentioned as an essential dress for Muslim women. The word hijab has been used only in the sense of a partition between men and women. The Holy Quran mentions ‘khimar’ instead of ‘hijab’, which means a sort of ‘chunri’ or ‘dupatta’.

Secondly, on the point whether Muslim girls used to come wearing hijab to colleges earlier, the principal of the Udupi college said that for the last 35 years, not a single Muslim girl attended school wearing hijab. The principal points out that the girls are now insisting on wearing hijab because they are being instigated by Campus Front of India and People’s Front of India. Even wearing hijab while entering school or college can be allowed, but girl students cannot be allowed to sit inside classrooms wearing hijab. Inside classrooms, uniform must be compulsory as a matter of discipline. The ball in now in the High Court and Supreme Court. Let the courts have the final say.

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