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Harvard students start signature campaign to support Hijab girls, asks Karnataka govt to withdraw ban order and apologise to Muslim students

A section of students from India studying at Harvard University has written a letter to other Indian students at various other universities asking them to be part of a signature campaign to demand the Karnataka government to withdraw the order to ban Hijab in educational institutions.

A few Indian students of Harvard University have written a letter to fellow students of various other major universities in the US seeking their support for the Muslim girls in India, who are protesting against the existing uniform guidelines that mandate students to wear a uniform and ban religious attire such as Hijab or burqa.

In a letter accessed by OpIndia, a section of students from India studying at Harvard University has written a letter to other Indian students at various other universities asking them to be part of a signature campaign to demand the Karnataka government to withdraw the order to ban Hijab in educational institutions. The students also demanded that the government apologise to all teachers and students who were forced to allegedly “disrobed” in public.

The Harvard students claimed they were appalled and extremely disheartened to see the banning of hijabs in schools and colleges across Karnataka, making schools inaccessible to young girls. 

The students also noted that education begins with the promise of safety, a promise that when a student leaves home, they return safely with new knowledge and learning. However, the ban on Hijab has stripped off the Muslim girls and women of this safety, the letter claimed. 

Defending the Muslim girls’ rights to wear Hijab, the Indian students wrote, “A hijab may mean many things – a garment a symbol of modesty, a commitment to faith and a permanent facet of one’s identity. India’s diverse garbs and garments make her a rich nation. If India removes the range of diverse turbans, pagris, headscarves, braiding, bracelets, holy threads, pendants, bindis, and jewellery found in the country, she will discontinue serving her students by placing systemic barriers to accessing education.”

The letter, seeming to be written with a poor understanding of the facts of the matter, further claimed the ban on the Hijab is highly disconcerting and worrisome to the Harvard community. The letter added that as practitioners and academics in a wide range of fields, including education, law, government, and business, passionately work to catalyse positive transformation worldwide, and in India, they visualised an Indian education system that is representative of the diverse country.

However, this targeted ban on Muslim girls is a matter of great concern that undermines decades of efforts to uplift the status of education for the Muslim community, the alleged Indian students claimed in their signature campaign.  

“As current students at Harvard who come from various countries around the world and within the breadth and lengths of the diverse country that is India, we each carry our cultures, faiths, and identities into this nearly 400-year-old institution. Each of us walks into classrooms that fully welcome our identities. We are free to wear our bindis, sindoors, hijabs and pagdhis here. We come here far from home yet feel safe and welcome through various policies and measures to create a sense of belonging,” the letter added.

Muslims are poorest and devoid of education, so don’t ban hijab: Indian students at Harvard argue

Citing the 2006 Sachar Committee report, the students highlighted how Muslims have the lowest levels of school and higher education enrolment and also have the lowest participation rates in all prestigious schools and higher educational institutions. The signature campaign claimed that Muslims continue to be among the poorest and most disadvantaged groups in India.

Resorting to fear-mongering, the alleged Indian students claimed that the ban on Hijab would further exacerbate the conditions by making educational institutions further inaccessible to Muslim girls and women. The ban, therefore, further aggravates the potential for heightened learning loss for Muslim girls and acts as a massive barrier for continuing their education, the letter read. 

The letter also cited various Supreme Court judgements to suggest that the Karnataka High Court’s interim order asking schools and colleges not to allow students wearing religious attire was not only against the rights ensured under article 25 but also against the rights under Article 19(1)(a), Article 15, Article 14, and Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

“Not only that, but the right to education also remains a fundamental right under the Constitution. This IO blatant violation of the dignity of women and is an affront to their privacy and autonomy,” the letter said.  

Calling for support, the students at Harvard University said they strongly condemn this attack on Indian Muslim women and girls and said that they are also concerned about the interim order of the Karnataka High Court, which restrains “students regardless of their religion or faith from wearing saffron shawls (bhagwa), scarves, hijab, religious flags or the like withIn the classroom”. 

Hence, we call upon the High Court and the learned judges to take cognisance of this and review their interim order and take cognisance of the humiliation through public disrobing of Muslim women and teachers, the statement said.

The students’ community also demanded that the Government of Karnataka withdraw the order immediately and allow the students to attend classes. The community also asked the Karnataka government to apologise to all teachers and students who were “forced to disrobe in public view and had their derogatory treatment turned into a public spectacle”. 

Strangely, the letter that claims to address the educational rights of the students picked up the bogey of ‘Islamophobia’ to call upon the Government of India to “recognise the widespread Islamophobia in the country and acknowledge the role that it has played in aiding such acts”.

Karnataka hijab row

The hijab controversy in Karnataka gained momentum in the first week of January after eight Muslim girls were denied entry to classes in a Udupi college because they were wearing Hijab. The college authorities had informed that the Hijab was not a part of the uniform dress code mandated for the students.

The Muslim girls, adamant about wearing Hijab, then filed a petition in High Court seeking permission to attend classes with Hijab. They stated that wearing the Hijab was their ”fundamental right” granted under Articles 14 and 25 of the Indian Constitution and ‘integral practice of Islam’.

Recently, a report revealed that the notorious radical Islamic outfit Campus Front of India (CFI) – the student wing of Popular Front of India and banned radical Hijabr outfit Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, counselled Muslim students to orchestrate the hijab controversy in Karnataka. 

The controversy spiralled as Hindu students in Karnataka styled with saffron scarves around their necks protested against Muslim girls continuing to wear Hijab to the college. Tensions also prevailed at some educational institutions in Udupi, Shivamogga, Bagalkote and other parts as incidents of stone-pelting and violence were reported from various parts of the state.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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