Q Why is it in News ?
A The Karnataka High Court has upheld the ban on the wearing of hijab (head scarf) by students in schools and colleges in the State.
- The judgment was delivered by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S. Dixit and Justice J.M. Khazi.
- It rejected all the petitions filed by girl students of pre-university colleges in Udupi district.
Q What are the key takeaways ?
A The HC held that wearing hijab is not an essential religious practice in Islam and is not, therefore, protected under by the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution.
- The court said it was a reasonable restriction that was constitutionally permissible.
- The Bench also upheld the legality of the order prescribing guidelines for uniforms in schools and pre-university colleges under the provisions of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983.
- The court said that school uniform will cease to be a uniform if hijab is also allowed.
Q What else did the court observe?
- The Bench also spoke about the possibility of some “unseen hands” behind the hijab row to engineer social unrest and disharmony.
- It expressed dismay over the issue being blown out of proportion by the powers that be.
Q What is Hijab?
- Hijab is a scarf or clothing worn by Muslim women to cover their hair in order to maintain modesty and privacy from unrelated males either in public or at home.
- The concept, however, is not unique to Islam but embraced by other religions too such as Judaism and Christianity.
Q What is History of Hijab in Islam ?
A Veiling during Mohammad’s lifetime
- Historic pieces of evidence suggest that veiling was not introduced in Arabia by the last Prophet of Islam, but already existed there and was associated with high social status.
Spread of Islam and its traditions
- As Islam propagated through the Middle East to parts of Africa and Central Asia, and different societies around the Arabian Sea, it incorporated local veiling customs and influenced others.
- However, the veil was neither compulsory nor widely accepted by many generations after Mohammad.
- But it gained momentum after male scriptural and legal scholars began using their religious and political authority to regain the dominance they lost in society due to the Prophet’s egalitarian reforms.
Veiling by upper-class Arab women
- Soon, the Upper-class Arab women adopted veiling while the poor ones were slow to adopt as it interfered with their work in the fields.
- The practice was both adopted as an appropriate expression of Qur’anic ideals regarding modesty and as a silent announcement that the women’s husband was rich enough to keep her idle.
Westernization of Muslim Countries
- Westernization started dominating Muslim countries between the 1960s and 1970s. However, in 1979, widespread demonstrations were carried out in Iran after the hijab law was brought in.
- The law decreed that the women in the country would have to wear scarves to leave their houses. While the law over hijab was passed in Iran, it was not the same for all Muslim countries.
- The resurgence of hijab began in Egypt in the late-twentieth century as a means to reunite and rededicate to the Islamic faith.
- The movement was known as Sahwah and the female pioneers of the movement adopted the Islamic dress.
- The movement gained impetus and the practice became more widespread among Muslim women. They wore it publicly to announce their religious beliefs as well as reject western influences of dress and culture that were prevalent at the time.
Q What are Different kinds of Islamic clothing ?
- Hijab: The hijab covers the hair and chest and is common among Muslim women in South East Asia. Hijab is also a general term referring to the practice of wearing veils of all kinds.
- Niqab: It is a veil that covers the face and head, keeping the eye area open.
- Burqa: covers the entire body including the whole face, with a mesh window for the woman to see out of.
- Khimar: It is a long scarf that covers the head and chest but keeps the face uncovered.
- Shayla: A rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the head and pinned in place.
Q What are the reactions on the Judgment ?
- Some factions have said that the order is a blow to right to education for Muslim women.
- Other see it as an empowerment of women.
- Feminists says that it’s not about an item of clothing, it’s about the right of a woman to choose how she wants to dress.
- The Leftists perceived it as a blow against the universal right to education without discrimination, guaranteed by the law and the Constitution of India.