Indian Left and Iran Islamists on same page
Today, the 'Left-Liberal' pack in India and draconian Iranian regime are on the same page. The modus operandi and arguments being used by the pack to push the women back to slavery are sickeningly familiar.
While women are involved in a 'do or die' battle against an Islamic regime in Iran to reclaim their lost right to choose - wear or not to wear Hijab - the Indian Supreme Court is likely to pronounce this week a verdict on the validity of the February 5 Karnataka Government circular banning students from wearing religious clothing, including hijab, to state-run educational institutions.
The case of the pro-hijab lobby, led by 'left-liberals' in India rests on two arguments. One: the issue involves Muslim students' right of choice, and no agency, including the state, can have a right to interfere in it. The second: hijab is a part of 'Essential Religious Practices' (ERP) of Islam, and Muslim women have no choice in this respect, but to follow the religious injunction.
In short, Muslim women's submission to their faith, overrides their commitment to the requirements of a secular state.
While the first argument relating to right to choose is specious at best, the second endorses what the Islamic regime is doing in Iran to crush the agitating women, with a heavy hand.
Iran is an Islamic Republic and committed to run the society, as per Islamic laws. It's coercing women to wear hijab, punishing dissenters, because, its interpretation of Islam makes hijab ERP of the faith, hence non-negotiable, and mandatory for Muslim women. Aren't the 'Left-Liberals', and pro-hijab Indian Muslim women using exactly the same logic to back their demand?
Today, the 'Left-Liberal' pack in India and draconian Iranian regime are on the same page. Both are invoking faith to put down women. What the pack is doing to Indian women now, it had done the same to Iranian women in 1979-80. The modus operandi and arguments being used by the pack to push the women back to slavery are sickeningly familiar.
The Islamic revolution, which overthrew the Shah Pahlavi dynastic regime in 1979-80, was led by Iranian women in large numbers along with the left-liberals, and Islamic clergy. They worked as a team.
Is hijab a part of ERP of Islam, as the Left-Liberals gang' would have us believe? If that be so, why are thousands of women in streets in Iran, cutting and burning their hair, willingly subjecting themselves to police atrocities, losing their lives and limbs in the process? Aren't they believing Muslims? Or for 'Left-Liberal' pack, they are apostate Muslims - as the Iran Islamic regime portrays and deals with them - because they want to break-out of female subjugation?
The women right activists in India of the left, usually super active on such matters, have been guarded in their response to the events in Iran. So far, there aren't any candle marches or protest parades at Jantar Mantar or Mandi House in Delhi. The outrage is either muted, half-hearted and ideologically calibrated. Their dilemma: how to reconcile support for hijab in India and simultaneously oppose this scourge in Iran!
The current phase of protests started in Iran following death of a 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in September, after she was arrested for not wearing hijab in accordance with Islamic regime's standards - it was allegedly too loose, showed some hair. The hapless girl had to pay with her young life for this 'indiscretion' in an Islamic state.
In India, women have a choice - to wear or discard hijab. There is no compulsion either way. The present dispute is limited to the sanctity of uniforms in educational institutions. For decades, uniforms in schools and colleges in India been - what they should be - uniformly uniform for everyone - irrespective of the creed or religious identity of the students.
Can uniform be a matter of choice? It cannot be. You allow hijab to Muslim girls in schools. What about Muslim boys? Wouldn't they have right to wear skull caps? Can one deny the Hindu boys the right to don Ram-Navmi scarfs? Where will it stop? It will mean end of uniforms in schools. And why only in schools - the 'choice' argument can conveniently be extended to other institutions as well wherever uniform is in vogue: Fire Brigade, Police... the list is endless.
The ongoing hijab' controversy has nothing to do with the issue of 'choice' by women or the headgear being an essential part of Islam. It's a ploy by the 'Left-Liberal' gang to demonise BJP, with collateral damage to India's global image - whose timing, unfortunately for the gang, has gone horribly wrong - following unforeseen developments in Iran.
The current hijab battle in India is essentially a political one. Innocent orthodox Muslim girls are being pushed into the vortex of backwardness by the pack to meet its petty ideological and political ends. There was no controversy whatsoever when Hijab was recently denied - in one case by a state government run by the left, and in another by a Muslim trust. Both the cases are from Kerala.
In May 2019, Kerala's Muslim Educational Society (MES), which controls a total of 150 educational institutions, banned "any dress that covers the face" for girls on all the campuses it runs". An MES statement said, it "...will not encourage any type of veils on its campus... Managers of each MES institution will have to ensure that girl students do not come to the campus with their faces covered."
MES State President Fazal Ghafoor told media that his organisation "...aims at the social and cultural progress of the Muslim community, insists that students, even while maintaining high standards in curricular and extra-curricular activities, do follow a certain decorum in dress code too... Under these circumstances, dresses that are unacceptable to mainstream society - whether they are modern or religious - cannot be promoted." There were hardly any protests against the MES.
The second case concerns the Kerala Government run by a left coalition led by CPM. In January this year, the state government said that Student Police Cadets (SPC) will not be allowed to wear a hijab or full sleeve dress or any other religious symbols as part of their uniform. The Student Police Cadets is a voluntary organisation and a school-based youth development initiative by the Kerala police. The order came after a petition was moved in the High Court, which argued that it was a religious obligation to wear the hijab.
The order said the SPC has a dress code so that students can work towards non-religious discrimination and other such issues and therefore, combining the uniform with religious matters would affect the secular nature of the organisation. "Combining religious matters with uniforms in the present situation would raise the same demands in other similarly functioning forces, which would question the discipline and secular survival of the forces,"
The Left liberal' reticence to support Iranian women resistance to hijab, has to be seen in a historical perspective. In March 1979, after the new Islamic law on veiling at workplaces came into force, massive demonstrations took place in the capital and major cities of Iran. Thousands of women took to the streets shouting slogans such as: "We did not make the revolution to go backwards."
The demonstrators were attacked and injured by Islamist storm troopers. The left groups, which had led the Iranian women down the garden path, either remained conveniently silent or advised them to remain calm, implicitly telling them to accept status quo.
Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, women have been required by law to wear a veil covering their head and neck and conceal their hair. The Family Protection Law came soon after, which allowed men to divorce their wives through a mail. Child custody was taken away from women. Men could marry more than one permanent wife and as many temporary wives as they wanted. Men could stop their wives from going out in the street, from working. However, following massive protests, the controversial law was soon suspended.
A section of Indian Muslim is walking into the trap, in which their Iranian sister had over four decades back, with 'left- liberals as cheer- leaders from side- lines. Hijab is the beginning of women subjugation, a start of a one-way journey back to medieval times. Let's wait for the Supreme Court verdict.
(Mr. Balbir Punj is a Former Member of Parliament and a Columnist. He can be reached at: email@example.com)
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