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Sri Lanka cracks down on Muslim women wearing Hijab during exams violating rules, results of 70 students withheld

Commissioner General of Examinations in Sri Lanka, Amith Jayasundara clarified that the rule is important as it ensures the integrity of the examination process. The officials had advised students to comply with the regulations. Those who followed the instructions did not face any problems in getting the result. He added, “There is awareness about this rule, so it must be followed in all instances.”

The Examinations Department of Sri Lanka has taken a firm stance on upholding the examination rules leading to the withholding of Advanced Level (A/L) examination results of 70 students from Zahira College, Trincomalee. Notably, these students did not comply with the rules as mandated by the Education Department which states that both ears of the student must remain uncovered for the entire exam duration.

In a statement, the Commissioner General of Examinations, Amith Jayasundara, said that this rule was not arbitrarily imposed but was established after consultations with all the stakeholders including Muslim religious leaders. The rule was then passed by the Parliament. Jayasundara said, “It is not enough to merely show the ears to the examiner when entering the exam hall as we cannot determine whether they will use a Bluetooth device afterwards. The rule is to leave both ears uncovered the entire time they are in the exam hall.”

Jayasundara further clarified that the rule is important as it ensures the integrity of the examination process. The officials had advised students to comply with the regulations. Those who followed the instructions did not face any problems in getting the result. He added, “There is awareness about this rule, so it must be followed in all instances.”

He noted that the students have not been disqualified yet and the Sri Lanka education department is reviewing the circumstances carefully before coming to any decision keeping in mind that the students are young. He highlighted that at other centres, the students complied with the rules without any problem.

Speaking to the media, a teacher who wished to remain anonymous claimed that students did not wear Hijab but wrapped shawls ensuring their ears were visible. However, adherence to the specific rule is crucial for maintaining standardized examination procedures. The teacher acknowledged that the students had travelled from different towns to complete their A/L education at Zahira College and indicated they should have adhered to the established rules to avoid complications.

Member of Sri Lanka Parliament MS Thowfeek who represents the Trincomalee district confirmed he spoke to the Education Department regarding the matter. He assured that the results would be released once the Executive Board approves the same.

Meanwhile, activist Shreen Saroor claimed that the students wore shawls so their ears could be easily visible. She claimed that the penalisations were part of anti-Muslim sentiments that have been pushed not only by the “Sinhala Buddhist majority but also the Tamil community”. She said, “It is systematic and it penalises Muslim girls systematically. Muslim girls rarely get the chance to sit for the A/Ls, so when they do, they should not face these systematic barriers. Politicians from the area are politicising the issue on Hindutva-Islam communal lines for their political gains, with elections just around the corner.”

A similar incident took place in October 2023 in Sri Lanka. Samagi Jana Balawegeya (SJB) Parliamentarian Mujibur Rahman said, “Thirteen Muslim women’s results have not been released for wearing the hijab during the principal-appointment exams. However, when they were entering the hall, they had shown their ears to the supervisor. Yes, they had violated the rule of leaving the ears uncovered during the duration of the exam, but the issue here is the supervisor’s attitude. The same supervisor who had allowed them to sit the exam after checking their ears on the first day had raised an issue on the second day. If the supervisor had informed, the women would have followed the rules and had written the exam trusting the supervisor, but the same supervisor had then said they had violated the rules.” The results were later released in March 2024.

The Karnataka Hijab Controversy

The Udupi Hijab dispute in Karnataka arose in late 2021 which concerned Muslim female students in the state who wanted to wear hijabs as part of their school uniforms which led to major protests and legal battles as well as spread to other parts of the country.

The debate started in January 2022. A Udupi college turned away a number of Muslim students who were wearing hijabs to class. There were countless images on social media depicting college administrators forbidding students who donned the head covers from entering their campuses. Afterwards, the college administration contended that the hijab was not included in the uniform dress code that the students had been instructed to follow.

The administration had requested that female students forgo the hijab during their time in college, in accordance with the new state regulations. Eight female students consistently disobeyed the rule and claimed it inhibited them from practising their faith.

A student of PES College of Arts, Science and Commerce in Mandya named Muskan Zainab who rose to fame owing to her theatrics during the row was disclosed to have links to the banned radical Islamic organisation Popular Front of India through her father Abdul Sukoor who was a leader of the extremist outfit. The development had exposed the role of the group behind the controversy.

The girl came to the limelight after she was seen yelling “Allahu Akbar” in a niqab in response to Hindu students who were chanting “Jai Shree Ram.” They were protesting against the Muslim students who were screaming Islamic slogans in hijab and burqa inside the institution.

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
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