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Rubika Liyaquat, Taslima Nasreen and more: Muslim women who have been vigorously opposing the regressive practice of burqa

The case for burqa not only exhibits the ongoing Islamic radicalization in society but also justifies patriarchal notions against women of the worst kind.

The Udupi Burqa debate is one of the many cases which makes us paranoid over the course of Feminism in the 21st century. Supposedly Intellectual voices who usually stick their necks out to stand up against patriarchy on every issue under the sun, have now chosen silence ‘in solidarity’ with the Burqa-clad college aspirants. The worldview that often likes to paint itself libertarian, has kept itself busy at inventing new justifications for the centuries-old oppressive urges to cover the woman’s body.

While the school authorities are standing up to their decision of not allowing religious identities to take over the school uniform, The Burqa-clad girls too have made their priorities clear – “Hijab is our first priority, studies the second” The girls are being joined by the Arfa Khanums and Rana Aayubs of the world, who with their Islamist indoctrinations mince no words while convincing the world that wearing a Burqa or a Hijab is a matter of individual liberty. Sadly, for them to realise that Individual freedoms are bound by protocols of secular institutions, and their attempts to communalise them by wearing religious identities on sleeves will go unchallenged, comes from their rose-tinted tunnel vision of sharia complied world.

It was also time for Malala, to get up from nowhere and talabanise the institution in Udupi with her 280-character ‘solidarity’ on Twitter. She wants the girls to give up the college uniform and follow orthodox practices which she herself fought against the Taliban. According to her standing up against the Hijab, will lead to the objectification of women.

Amidst all the solidarity jargon, what stands out are the voices of those women who come fiercely while making sense of the pure fact that face veils have no place in a 21st-century society. While the Individuality of a woman for her will to wear the hijab can be used to validate Islamism, it can also be respected at times when she chooses to ditch the patriarchy instead. The voices of women from the community who have refused to perpetuate and generalise adamant misogynistic attitudes are somehow never pedestaled when they speak for themselves. Moreover, it has been observed, particularly in the hijab debate that those voices who have given away the veil are often stifled and threatened with online bullying, objectification and targeting. Here is a case study of views on the issue by four women from the Muslim community, who have been reckless fighters against Islamic radicalisation threatening to stifle the personal freedoms of women.

Rubika Liyaquat

ABP News anchor and Journalist left no stone unturned while making a case that Burqa has nothing to do with anything Indian. Recalling her times in Rajasthan, a state where the Ghoongat in some cases is a traditional commonplace, she asserted, “I have seen no girl going to school draping a veil. Here, we are going against the times where Ghungat is becoming obscure.” She also questioned how did the Black burquas inject themselves into the lives of the young generation while Muslim women from earlier generations only wore Indian dresses.

While Rubika was seen fighting the evils of Burqa in many of her latter tweets on the Udupi issue, she was trolled for expressing herself openly by people in Islamic and ‘liberal’ circles. Many questioned her with a defence of whataboutery sighting orthodox Hindu customs existing, others used slangs, objectification, passed misogynistic comments and even questioned her journalistic credentials.

Taslima Nasreen

Author Taslima Nasreen has been at the forefront to call out the subtle imposition of Burqa or Hijab as a symbol of ‘Islamism and misogyny’. She is of the opinion that all kinds of religious symbolism should be avoided in secular institutions like schools.

While hinting at the invasion of politics in the issue, she thrashed out at orthodox practices in Islam saying, “Islam is now political Islam. Hijab is now political hijab.”

It’s glaring to see when criticism from the religious quarters arrives at the tweets of these women, it is mostly the male accounts countering their progressive ideas. Much talk about the individual rights of women fails to deliver here. While all Taslima asked for was separating religious symbolism from schools, she too was charged with inciting ‘communalism’.

Amana Begam Ansari

Meet Amana Begum Ansari – Researcher and Policy Analyst who has led the cause of Pasmanda Muslims in India. Amana is of the view that while she does not support the burqa, she is not in favour of its complete ban by the state unless a security concern arises. While calling out the veil patriarchal, she says, “Women should have the right to wear patriarchal clothes just like they have the right to smoke despite being it a health issue.”

Nuanced takes like those of Amana are often slipped under the carpet while meta-narratives of glorifying and justifying the Burqa qualify as positions taken in favour of personal liberties. While speaking on The Sham Sharma Show, Amana claimed that while orthodoxies in the Hindu community have been rightfully challenged by awareness, the state has taken no steps like these, when it came to Muslims. “Campaigns with slogans like Ghoongat Chodo, Duniya Dekho are assertively carried out in interior Rajasthan by the Congress Government, but there would never be such slogans when it comes to the Muslim community.”

Arshia Malik

While progressive voices calling out for reforms in the Muslim society are often sidelined, Arshia Malik, who hails from Delhi has made sure her voice is always heard. In a recent article in The New Indian, she writes, “Those liberals of Muslim or non-Muslim heritage who are supporting the enforcement of hijab in Muslim culture as freedom of choice, and a tool of empowerment need to understand the moment when, girls, just about to step into puberty or years away from it are told to cover up.” In her opinion piece, she has argued for Muslims often being the victims of Islam itself.

While calling out the hypocrisy of Lawyer Devadutt Kamat, who argued before the court on behalf of the girls that wearing Hijab is an essential practice in Islam while citing religious scriptures, Arshia wrote on Twitter asking, “Since when did law courts in India become Sharia courts?”

Maybe there is a reason why do not celebrate the life of Fatima Sheikh, who alongside Savitribai Phule became the first Muslim teacher in India as a social reformer. Her name has been brushed away in history whereas the Phules are revered for their pathbreaking deeds. Who remembers Mehrunnisa Dalwai? – who fought against the social evils of Triple Talaq all throughout her life. Reformers in the Muslim sphere need recognition at a time when young college going girls have suddenly taken up Hijab as a marker of their identity. The girls, without being demonised, should be opened up to the values of the new India where cultural identities do not contest with the baggage of continuing practices just for the sake of tradition.

The case for burqa not only exhibits the ongoing Islamic radicalization in society but also justifies patriarchal notions against women of the worst kind. How can a collectivist normalization of covering every woman visible be touted as an exercise in personal individual liberty? The Burqa debate that has erupted out of Karnataka is about to spread its tentacles all over the country. The question thence before the nation is an all-encompassing philosophical, legal, political and religious one – Will obscure religious/social practices hurting eternal individual freedoms be allowed to determine the fabric of the 21st-century society or will the state intervene?

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Suyash Sherekar
Suyash Sherekar
Writer, Architect. Negotiating the Present as a Journalist and the Past as a Historical Researcher. News Geek. Writes on Politics and Policy, Design, Culture and Media.

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