In Kerala, Muslim education group bans hijab in its colleges
The MES directive came in the wake of the developments in Sri Lanka and the Shiv Sena’s demand to ban the burqua in India also. However, the outfit denied these incidents had anything to do with its decision.
The Muslim Educational Society (MES), a Kerala-based progressive outfit which runs around 150 educational institutions in the state and the Middle-East, issued a circular on Thursday banning the hijab which covers the face of women in all its institutions.
Among the 150 institutions that MES runs are 10 professional institutes, 18 arts and science colleges, 36 CBSE schools and many other institutions. It collectively serves 85,000 students and has more than15,000 employees.
The MES directive came in the wake of the developments in Sri Lanka and the Shiv Sena’s demand to ban the burqua in India also. However, the outfit denied these incidents had anything to do with its decision. After the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, which claimed more than 250 lives, Sri Lankan President M Sirisena had banned the burqua in public places citing security reasons and the Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamna’ had lauded the move saying India should also follow suit triggering a debate in the country.
The circular issued by MES president P A Fasal Gafoor instructed all educational institutions to implement the decision strictly from the next academic session onwards. Covering one’s face is against the individuality of the person and one should not wear a dress which is not acceptable to the society in general, it said adding the recent court orders against covering women’s faces forced it to issue such a circular.
“It is nothing new. We have been taking a consistent position on this. Some orthodox elements are imposing a dress code on women. It is nothing to do with Islam. We will go ahead with our plan,” said Gafoor adding it was nothing to do with developments in Sri Lanka. While many Muslim activists and scholars have welcomed the move traditionalists opposed it vehemently saying it was “an incursion on religious freedom.”
“The veil is a part of Arab culture. Some orthodox elements are planning to impose it in Kerala. It is nothing to do with Islam. Saner elements in the religion should oppose such elements who want to hide women under veils,” said Islamic scholar Prof Hameed Chenamangaloor. He said the ‘burqua invasion’ in the state began 25 years ago after some radical outfits started intruding the religion. He said the state’s exposure to the Middle East (18 lakh people work in oil rich Gulf countries) led to the practice of wearing the veil in the state.
“I studied in a Muslim management college 40 years ago. In those days Muslim girls used to wear normal dress. It is sad, now it is prevalent everywhere. Some priests and radical elements are behind this and they are doing a big disservice to the religion,” he said.
But many outfits like Samastha Kerala Jemiayathul Ulema said they will oppose the move to ban the burqua. “The burqua is the identity of Muslim women. Nobody can fiddle with our customs,” said a leader of the E K Sunni faction who did not want to be identified.
Sunni Samastha president Muthukoya Thangal also criticized MES’s move saying, “The MES has no right to dictate terms for believers. Burqua is the identity of Muslim women and nobody can deny this,” and demanded the withdrawal of the circular.