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The Karnataka Burqa row is not about education, it’s Islamism stamping its foot and liberals dutifully massaging it

India seems to be on a collision course as Islamists have decided to stamp their authority without fear, liberals have decided to be their toilet cleaners, while Hindus too have decided that they are not going to take this attempt of subjugating them lying down.

The Karnataka burqa row took an unprecedented turn on Tuesday, February 8, after chief minister Bommai announced the closure of all schools and colleges in the state for the next 3 days, a move that underscores the gravity of the raging controversy that first erupted last month when burqa-clad female students of a Udupi college were denied entry into classes because they were not complying with the college’s uniform dress code.

Before long, the controversy spread to other educational institutes across the state, where Muslim students were engaged in a standoff with college authorities for not allowing them to attend classes in burqas. As Muslim students demanded they be allowed to attend schools and colleges wearing burqas, Hindu students organised a protest against burqas in educational institutes. Scores of Hindu students from colleges across Karnataka wore saffron shawls and scarves in opposition to burqas.

A petition was also filed in Karnataka High Court arguing that Muslim girls wearing Hijab/Burqa should be permitted to attend classes. The petition was filed by a Muslim student, asking the High Court for a direction to allow wearing a hijab in college, stating that it is her “Fundamental Right” granted under Article 14 and 25 of the Indian Constitution and “integral practise of Islam”.

On Tuesday, the Karnataka High Court heard the matter and advised students to maintain peace & tranquillity so that people are not inconvenienced. Justice Dixit said that the court has full faith in the wisdom and virtue of the public at large and it hopes that the same would be practised. The hearing will continue on Wednesday.

Karnataka burqa row: A controversy that is emblematic of growing Islamism

Nevertheless, the Burqa row has snowballed into a major controversy, largely due to the perennial efforts of the left-liberal intelligentsia to create a fear psychosis in the minds of Muslims, painting a dystopian picture about the current state of affairs and painting the centre as working against the Muslims. Instead of holding recalcitrant Muslim girls who are bent on visiting colleges and schools in burqas, in violation of established rules and regulations, the liberals have blamed college authorities and administration for the current imbroglio, alleging that Muslim girls being denied entry to institutions is a part of a sinister plan of the government to target Muslims.

For years now, being denied entry into educational institutes because of the inappropriate uniform was never a controversy. Instead, schools, colleges, and universities were encouraged to have uniforms so that the importance of discipline is inculcated among the students. Similarly, for years now, Muslim girls did not insist on wearing burqas to their schools and colleges, keeping their religious assertiveness strictly confined to their homes and treating educational institutes as nothing more than centres of learning.

However, that behaviour has changed dramatically of late, as Muslim girls showed eager alacrity to wear their religion on their sleeves, even if that violates the pre-established rules of uniform dress code formulated by educational institutes. This change could be said to have been triggered by the growing awareness among Hindus, who have come to realise that secularism is a one-way street, where the burden of securing the pluralistic ethos of the country rests solely on the burden of the majority community while others are not constrained by any such moral obligation.

Liberals and Islamists make common cause amidst growing awareness among Hindus

As Hindu consciousness has grown, sections of radical Muslims have sought to counter it by doubling down on their exclusivist identity politics than taking efforts to transform secularism into a mutual affair or a two-way street. Rather than adopting contemporary and modern practices, such Muslims have leaned on medieval era customs, including the insistence of wearing burqas for women. Consequently, this radicalism has seeped into younger minds, with minor and teenage Muslim girls considering it their religious duty to wear burqas in public.

Although radicalism among Muslims was growing apace, the first signs of it were visible during the first tenure of the Modi government, when Islamists and left-liberals joined forces to counter the increasing assertiveness of Hindus. Controversies like the beef ban were deliberately stoked where a section of vocal Muslims virtually insisted that they won’t stop eating one dish just to respect Hindus. They demanded the right to kill and eat an animal that millions of Hindus consider holy and sacred.

Liberals, however, played along even then, concealing Islamists’ disdain for Hindu sentiments by using specious reasoning to justify their demands. They cited individual rights and food choice to justify the validity of the demands made by Islamists while it was clear that Muslim parties were not furthering their arguments based on vaulted liberal principles but because they wanted to stamp their identity.

Several other controversies during the first tenure of the Modi government proved that Islamists were bent on asserting their religious identity rather than upholding the principles of secularism and syncretism. The controversies surrounding the chanting of Vande Mataram slogans, Bharat Mata Ki Jai, standing up for the national anthem in theatres,, cattle smuggling—and many other issues illustrated that Muslim parties were driven by their uncompromising and fundamentalist stand that was rooted in strict and puritanical interpretation of Islam. Even then, liberals extended unwavering support to them, citing freedom of expression, liberty as enshrined in the Constitution.

But in the second tenure of the Modi government, India saw this Islamist supremacist identity politics exerting itself violently and in the streets. Be it the riots that swept the country over the Citizenship Amendment Act or the row over offering namaz in public space, or even the ‘sar tan se juda’ rallies carried out by Islamists, and recently, the raging burqa controversy—all these incidents are motivated by the desire to follow a pure version of Islam and exert their Islamic culture on the beliefs of the ‘Kafir Land’, a term Islamists use to refer to Hindu-majority India.

Though there is no liberalism exhibited by the Muslim groups who have taken to the streets, creating ruckus and indulging in violence, liberals have still fallen over themselves to defend their actions, referring to obscure liberal principles to make a case for the Islamists.

However, Islamists don’t really need liberals to defend them. They have already captured ‘intellectual’ space too, with people like Sharjeel Imam, Sharjeel Usmani and others writing articles about absolving Jinnah, downplaying the menace of radicalism among Muslims, branding every attempt to expose the murderous ideology harboured by Islamists as “Islamophobic”, and supporting every Islamist demand by citing the Constitution of India.

How liberals who champ at the bit of defending Islamists are failing liberalism

Furthermore, Islamists have also demonstrated that they can survive, perhaps even thrive, without the help of their ideological brethren from the left intelligentsia. This is why Islamists do not flinch from targeting liberals who do not toe their line. For example, actor Naseeruddin Shah was cancelled by Islamists for criticising them for expressing glee over the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Shah, who is usually a favourite of Indian Islamists was described as ‘not Muslim enough’ for asking Muslims to introspect whether they want a “reformed, modern Islam” or the “barbaric values” of past centuries.

Just like Naseeruddin Shah, Swara Bhaskar, one of the luminaries of the left-liberal intelligentsia in India was also cancelled because she was seen following the Hindu rituals of Grih Pravesh. Following rituals and customs of other religions is strictly prohibited under Islam and Islamists felt no compunction in attacking one of their most staunch supporters when she was found indulging in a practice that was inherently Hindu.

Making common cause with Islamists is akin to going on a wild goose chase, a foolish pursuit of something unattainable, especially when those being defended care little about the efforts put in by their ideological supporters, and waste no time in attacking those very supporters who oppose them or indulge in activities that run counter to their supremacist beliefs. Yet, the liberals continue to be drawn towards Islamists, showing little respect for their ideals and principles and their own self-esteem.

These incidents nonetheless prove that liberals are failing liberalism yet again, perhaps one billionth time. One of the most famous failures of liberals was the Shah Bano case, in which the Supreme Court delivered a judgement favouring the maintenance given to an aggrieved divorced Muslim woman, but the Rajiv Gandhi government at the Centre caved in to the demands of the Islamists and passed a law that diluted the top court’s judgment and restricted the right of Muslim divorcees to alimony from their former husbands for only 90 days after the divorce.

Karnataka hijab row is not about education but about opposition to exclusivist identity politics practiced by Islamists

The Karnataka burqa row is yet another example of how not only liberals but even the judiciary is failing liberalism. During the hearing on the petition filed in the hijab controversy, Congress leader Devadatt Kamat, who appeared in court in support of hijab, argued that not covering the head is considered as “haram” as per the Islamic Sharia.

The incidents of the last few months indicate that, unfortunately, India is on a collision course as Islamists have decided to stamp their authority without fear, liberals have decided to be their toilet cleaners, while Hindus too have decided that they are not going to take this attempt of subjugating them lying down, and fight fiercely to oppose this exclusivist identity politics. Thus, the Karnataka burqa row has nothing to do with education as being bandied about, rather it is Islamism stamping its identity and liberals dutifully massaging it, while Hindus buckle down to preserve the secular fabric of India and its pluralistic ethos.

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Jinit Jain
Jinit Jain
Writer. Learner. Cricket Enthusiast

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