Muslim Educational Society in Kerala told to withdraw hijaab ban
In a statement, IUML chief Panakkad Hyderali Thangal said it was a student’s individual choice to cover the face or not and it was not proper to ban it. He said covering the face was part of the religion and it was the duty of religious scholars to take a decision on this. He asked the MES to withdraw its circular immediately.Updated: May 16, 2019 00:04 IST
The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a constituent of the Congress-led United Democratic Front, on Wednesday asked the Muslim Educational Society (MES) to withdraw its circular banning face-covering veils (hijaab) on its campuses.
In a statement, IUML chief Panakkad Hyderali Thangal said it was a student’s individual choice to cover the face or not and it was not proper to ban it. He said covering the face was part of the religion and it was the duty of religious scholars to take a decision on this. He asked the MES to withdraw its circular immediately.
Two weeks ago, the MES had issued a circular citing a recent Kerala high court order to ban the hijaab, which covers the face of women, in all its institutions. While hearing a plea questioning the uniform of a particular school last February, the HC held it was the discretion of the school management to decide the uniform and it had nothing to do with religion or belief.
The MES is a progressive educational group that runs 150 institutions and educates more than 100,000 students. Last week, Kerala police had registered a case after its president Dr Fasal Gafoor, also a neurology professor, complained that he received death threats from a West Asian country. But Gafoor insisted that he would not withdraw the circular. “It is not a religious custom. Some elements are planning to impose certain customs which are not part of the religion. There is a growing ‘Arabisation’ in the community and it has to be checked. Arabs wear dress according to their climate. Nobody can impose such a dress code here,” he said, adding he would go ahead with his decision.
He said out of 40,000 Muslim students, only six cover their face. “We have to take the community ahead, not backward. There is no homogeneous identity for Muslims in the country. Region to region, their culture and dress code varies,” he said. Many reformists feel that the IUML was forced to take the decision following pressure from hardline elements.
While many progressive Muslim outfits have welcomed the decision saying face veils had nothing to do with religion, many traditionalists have opposed it vehemently and dubbed it “an incursion on religious freedom”.
Samastha Kerala Jemiayathul Ulema president Muthukoya Thangal criticized the MES move: “The MES has no right to dictate terms to believers. Burqa is the identity of Muslim women and nobody can deny it,” he said. Samastha, a prominent section of the Sunni sect, has threatened to boycott MES institutions if it goes ahead with its decision.
But the ruling Left Democratic Front has welcomed the MES decision.
“While performing the Haj pilgrimage, women never cover their face. It is nothing to do with religion and we should promote saner voices from the community,” said K T Jaleel, state minister for local administration.