In the Indian state of Karnataka, Muslim students are protesting against the ban on hijab and dozens of female students are boycotting schools in several districts. According to the Times of India, 45 female students studying at two educational institutions in the Shimoga district of Karnataka have left their classes after refusing to take off their hijab. In other educational institutions in Karnataka also, female students are not being allowed to enter if they do not take off their hijab. According to the Indian newspaper, the administration has said that the High Court has banned anyone from entering educational institutions wearing any dress which is considered a religious symbol. It is to be noted that Karnataka has been in the grip of protests for the last two weeks due to the ban on hijab imposed by the state government. The protests have caused a great deal of tension among Muslim students and supporters of India’s right-wing parties. Last week, the Karnataka High Court in an interim judgment banned the wearing of all kinds of clothing considered a symbol of religion.
Hijab Controversy: Rising Diplomatic Pressure on India
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation is not the first international forum to raise the issue of hijab in India. Earlier, US Ambassador to the International Religious Freedom Rushd Hussain had issued an official statement on Twitter on February 11 on the controversy over the hijab in Karnataka, in which he said that religious freedom includes the right to dress as one pleases. Rasheed Hussain said that the Indian state of Karnataka should not try to decide on one’s religious dress. “The ban on wearing hijab in school is not only a violation of religious freedom but also a step against women and girls.” It should be noted that Pakistan has also officially protested to India on this issue And the Indian attache in Islamabad was called to the Foreign Office to express concern.
Religious Freedom in India
Last year, US Secretary of State Anthony Blanken released a list of “countries of particular concern” violating religious freedom, and the US Commission on Religious Freedom, which compiled the list, suggested that India be included. Despite this, the Biden administration did not include India in the list. It should be noted that every year the United States issues a list of countries and organizations that do not meet the standards of the American International Religious Freedom Act. Despite the recommendation of the US Commission on Religious Freedom, many people questioned India’s inclusion in the list. The commission said in a statement that “following the review of religious freedom in 2020, four countries were nominated for the list, including India, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.” But none of these countries are on the list except Russia. The list includes the Taliban governments of Pakistan, China, Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Burma.