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Triumphant Shireen steps into Aliah University without veil

Saturday, August 21, 2010 11:53:12 AM, Adnan Alavi

Teacher wins fight against burqa diktat

A teacher at West Bengal's first Muslim University, who was not allowed to hold classes after she defied the student union's "diktat" to wear a burqa, has finally won her battle following the intervention of a  »

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Shireen Madiha has finally stepped into the university on her conditions. She had refused to bow down to the union's diktat that every woman teacher will have to wear a burqa on campus.

Now she has succeeded and the union is forced to accept its defeat. Shireen [her name wrongly appeared as Sirin Middya in some newspapers] had invited the ire of the students' union in Kolkata's Aliah University, where she taught Bangla literature, for not wearing the veil.

The union members had asked her to comply just like other Muslim women in the institution. However, the lecturer refused. She took a strong stand against this irrational 'order'. Started in 1781 as a madrasa, Aliah University is the first Muslim university in West Bengal.

Firstly. it is unlawful to force a woman to wear a particular dress. Anyone has a right to not wear a burqa, just like it is a woman's right to go for hijab if she wills. Secondly, a 'student' union has no business to issue a diktat, and threaten a teacher, more so in a democratic country.

Unfortunately, certain individuals and groups commit acts send a wrong message. Media reports and a bit of intervention from the State government made the university authorities act. In fact, she shouldn't have faced this situation and university authorities must have reined in the union earlier.

She took a stand that she will not wear the burqa though some other women teachers started going to the university in veil. Initially she was shifted to the Salt Lake campus of the university, but was brought back and now goes back to teach, on her terms.

Banning veil, forcing veil equally absurd
For a lone teacher who was singled out and hounded on the campus, it was not easy. Shireen must be congratulated for taking a stand and fighting for her rights. It is absurd to force burqa in the same manner just like it is undemocratic to ban it.

Civil rights and individual choice have to be respected. There will always be narrow-minded fundamentalist persons and institutes but they must be fought. In the last couple of years, such incidents are getting reported more often.

Earlier, teenaged Ayesha had fought the ban on headscarf in a Mangalore college and got her right to keep her head covered. Sironj's Mohammed Salim went up to the Apex court against the school that had expelled him for keeping beard, and he had also won the case.

Adnan Alavi maintains

a blog at



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