[Whole body covering - normally known as Burqa, Burkha, Niqab or Full Veil – different from Hijab in which face of the person wearing it is visible.]
Let me be very clear. I don’t support any ban or enforcement on a person’s right to wear, or for that matter right to food and eat. At the same time, I am also not unaware or ignorant about the rampant Islamophobic attacks on Muslims merely because of their dress code, as in the United States, Europe and other parts of the world, and also crackdown, more infamously lynching, of Muslims just because they have difference of opinion about their food choice.
Honestly speaking, at first glance when I saw today’s morning newspapers screaming about a Mumbra school banning “Hijab” in its premises, I too had a feeling about the report as yet another Islamophobic, intolerant incident to target Muslims. Then suddenly, my eyes caught the parents’ part of the report and I wondered, why a ban on the hijab of parents? It prompted me to go through the story once again. This is because of what I found in my second attempt that those who have expressed their displeasure over the decision should not only reconsider their stand but should also support the decision of Symbiosis Convent High School in Mumbra.
As reported, Kamalraj Deo, a trustee of the school, said the management took the decision to ban whole body covering - normally known as Burqa, Burkha, Niqab or Full Veil – different from Hijab in which face of the person wearing it is visible, after attempted abduction of some of the school students.
“Some students left school in a fully-veiled burkha. When their parents came, our security wouldn’t know where their girls were,” school trustee Kamalraj Deo said citing a case where the school suspected abduction by fully covered women disguised as parents.
"The school recently came across two women seeking to take their child home early. Their faces were covered. We summoned the class teacher, but before she could arrive, the two ran away,” Kamalraj Deo said, calling it an attempted abduction.
Further clarifying the management’s motive, Deo said, “I don’t intend to hurt any religious sentiments, but on camera, faces need to be revealed, for our records… It is purely for safety reasons.”
Those in the knowhow will agree that burqa and niqab have nowadays been used by anti-social elements. Cases of abduction by fully covered burqa clad women have indeed taken place in recent days. Kidnapping and human trafficking are becoming a norm, and this is on records that some of them involved are burqa clad women. Against this backdrop, there is no reason not to believe Deo if he says the decision is taken keeping in mind the security of the students.
The Muslim community knows, and should know, Islam is not rigid in such cases. If a school management demands that faces should be visible, or identity of a person should be revealed, for security reasons, there should not be hue and cry and Islam has provisions to tackle such situations.
Despite this, we make hue and cry on such issues. It is because we don’t want to look at the other side of the story. I am a teacher and know Muslim students are no different from others when it comes to cheating in the exams. And, burqa comes handy for such cheaters. Hence any restriction on burqas during the exams is surely for the benefit of the students. But it is no secret how we create ruckus to stop any such attempt.
Muslims should support the Mumbra school’s decision considering the safety of the students also because the burqas the way they are being dressed nowadays have anyway lost their meaning. They are meant for modest dressing and to cover what should not be revealed in public. But, the modern fashion burqas serve none of these purposes. On the contrary, a woman is more revealing if she wears herself up with a fashionable burqa – clearly against its motives as per the Islamic law.
Worse, for some women who are in prostitution, burqas – the whole body cover, are used to hide their identity. Such women are common on railway platforms, parks and hotels. And, yes we should also not forget, as reported by this news portal, the “political use” of burqas in public rallies - a new norm invented to fake political strength.
Hence it is desired from the community to ascertain all angles of the happenings around it before taking the final call. Anti-Muslim attacks and Islamophobic diktats are facts. Surrendering to such ugly tactics will be suicidal. But, we as a community should not be so naive to look at only one side of an issue, even if it is at the cost of valid reasoning.
[Hena Farhat is a teacher. She regularly contributes articles exclusively for ummid.com.]