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The Article ‘The Hijab Case: All you need to know’ is a comprehensive analysis of how six girls in Karnataka were banned from entering college just because they were wearing hijabs. The author reflected that the life faced by Muslim women has always been troublesome for them. The journey to obtain the rights has been quite challenging. It was demanded that the hijab was their fundamental right.
Further, the Karnataka High Court decided that hijab was not an important part of the religion and as such there was no such violation of their rights given under Article 25 of the Constitution of India. The author explicates the decisions of the courts along with the various issues and arguments involved in it.
Introduction: Hijab Case
It is nothing new to us that India is a diverse nation. Diverse in such a way that it often gets to see problems that are difficult to figure out whether it is a matter arising out of diversification or a tug of war between two or more groups of people with malafide intention to disrupt the harmony of the nation. Shifting our focus to women, it is often seen that when it comes to the rights of women, the situation often becomes chaotic and when it comes to Muslim women, even more.
From the Shayara Bano case to eliminating the torturous triple talaq, things have been difficult. This time it is the hijab row. ‘Purda system’ in India has been very common for ages but is it okay to cover the rights of women along with their faces? Is it okay that covering of head and face have to be given more importance than education and awareness? And is it okay that men have to tell women about their conduct instead of women themselves deciding what they want? In the hijab row, various dimensions ranging from right to education, humanity to justice, everything were brought to the ground of question.
What is a Hijab?
Hijab is derived from an Arabic word, which implies partition, and the woman who wears a hijab is called Muhaajaba. The Quran instructs Muslim women and men to dress modestly, and for some, the hijab is worn by Muslim girls and women to maintain modesty and privacy from unrelated males. According to the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World,
modesty concerns both men’s and women’s gaze, gait, garments, and genitalia.
However, there is nothing mentioned in Quran as such that not wearing a hijab is an offence and against Islamic practices.
When we talk of the importance of the hijab which we must, as it is the focal point of the whole case, different people have different points of view over wearing the hijab. Some say it is to show that the woman is pure and her sanctity is intact, while others say that it is the command of Allah to wear a hijab. It is even said that Hijab encourages modesty, both physically and spiritually. When a woman covers her head as per Allah’s command, it is her way of showing her belief in Allah and accepting all his commands. It makes the connection between the Almighty and that woman stronger.
Where did it all start?
It was the chilly December month of 2021 when the colleges in Karnataka reopened after the pandemic seemed to be in control. Soon, after the college reopened, six girls wore the hijab to their pre-university government college in Udupi. After entering the classroom, the teachers asked them to take permission from the principal upon wearing hijab in the classroom to which the principal denied wearing hijab in classrooms as it was against the uniform protocol of the institution and was already mentioned openly before the admissions.
Where on one hand the girls were not refrained from wearing hijabs on campus, on the other hand, they were instructed to remove the hijab before entering the class. The protest started soon demanding that wearing the hijab is a constitutional right and it cannot be denied per se. The girls insisted that they would use the veil as a hijab so that another separate garment is not added to the uniform and that will serve the purpose. It was strange that no one wore a hijab to the college in the first year but started digging in the heels of the authorities asking for the right to wear a hijab.
Flow of Events
It didn’t take much longer for other colleges in the district to act against the wearing of hijab in institutions. And the heat of the scenario was increasing every day. What had happened over there just set the fire ablaze. A group of Hindu students started coming to the institution with saffron scarves protesting against the girls demanding to wear hijab. What they said was that if the hijab can be a part of the uniform to represent their religion, then so can the saffron scarves.
In the first week of February, the government issued an order stating that the uniforms mandated by the state government, the school management, or college development committees must be worn compulsorily. And for those colleges which do not have separate guidelines for uniforms, the court ordered that the students must wear clothes that do not hamper public order, equality, and unity.
In this flow of events, multiple institutions including high schools and colleges were shut till further notice to abstain from the chaos that was being created and to put a stop to violent acts that could possibly take place.
Meanwhile, On February 10th, a girl named Muskan Khan was threatened by a group of boys while she was present on the college premises. She was wearing a burqa and heading to the college wherein a group of male Hindu students who carried saffron shawls across their shoulders started chanting “Jai Shri Ram” and the girl, in turn, started yelling “Allahu Akbar”. Amidst this, the college administration tried to calm the situation and made sure of the girl’s safety by escorting her into the building.
A video of the said incident also went viral over social media which further brought this hijab case into the limelight.
Knocking at the gate of the courts
At first, two petitions were filed in the High Court of Karnataka.
- Firstly a group of students from Udupi PU College filed a writ petition on 31st January seeking that wearing of hijab is a Fundamental Right under Article 14 and Article 25 of the Constitution of India.
- Whereas the second petition was filed by a single student in the first week of February who was seeking a directive to permit the wearing of hijab in schools and colleges at the soonest.
When the matters were being heard in the court by Justice Krishna S. Dixit, he pointed out that the main issue was not whether a hijab can be worn in institutions, but the issue was whether wearing a hijab is an essential Islamic practice and to decide the same at least three judges bench was required.
Meanwhile, many more cases relating to the same scenario were filed in the High Court. Once the three judges bench sat for the proceeding and an interim order was passed that required all the schools and colleges to reopen and the students need not wear any kind of religious symbols or garments to school till further order.
In the not so long run battle, the High Court passed an order upholding the ban on hijab by the educational institutions on 15th March 2022 and the court held that wearing hijab is not an essential religious practice that Islam suggests and hence it will not come under the protection of Article 25 of the Indian constitution. This decision of the court was backed by its own investigation by referring to the Holy Quran: Text, Translation, and Commentary by Abdullah Yousuf Ali; and is to be noted that the same source was referred to in the Shayara Bano case.
As soon as the Karnataka High Court upheld the ban on religious clothes and ruled that hijab is not an essential religious practice directed by Islam, the petitioners moved up to the Supreme Court wanting to list the matter for urgent hearing; the Supreme Court over which said-
‘do not sensitize’ and rejected the plea for urgent hearing.
This entire hijab row was a tug of war between sentiments. While hijab for some is just a piece of cloth that brings inequality and eliminates uniformity, for others, it is their identity and what distinguishes them from others that they feel to be important.
The legal system, however, eliminates sentiments and works according to the law of equity, justice, and a good conscience and of course, the laid down statutes and provisions to meet the ends of justice. In this diverse nation with a humungous population, religion, and culture, it is bound to happen that some decisions might be liked by a certain sect and disliked by the other at the same time.
However, what actually did suffer and became a joke was education among everything else. The students continuously missed their classes during the protest and even skipped examinations as the judgment was not in their favour. An ugly side of humanity was also reflected when the judges of the Karnataka High Court namely, Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Dixit, and Justice Khazi Jaibunnisa Mohiuddin who were taking up the matter were given threats of life after they upheld the ban on religious clothes and ruled that hijab is not an essential religious practice directed by Islam. Wherefore, they were given Y+ Security.
There have been and will be cases and instances coming up that satisfy a particular sect and works the opposite for the other but what should always be served is justice.
 Supreme Court Declines request for urgent hearing, Available Here
 Hijab and Freedom of religion, Available Here
 Don’t Sensationalise: Supreme Court Refuses Early Hearing On Hijab Ban, Available Here