Hijab: A Symbol of Power and Grace

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Muslim students wearing hijab were denied entry into college in Karnataka. Source: Twitter

In Modi’s India, anything is a political tool as long as it aligns with the agenda – a cow, a romance, a dua, a hymn and now a woman. This begins to show the desperation of religious hatred and misogyny, bent on tearing apart the composite culture of this once great, secular nation. 

DR SAMINA SALIM | Clarion India

THIS morning when I came to work, a colleague of mine asked me what do I think about the issue surrounding “Hijab” in India? At this point I had not seen the Karnataka video but had heard about this from a friend.  I pretended to be in a rush and closed myself in my office, sat down and started to quietly process how I felt. Words failed and I struggled. I started repeating the word ‘hijab’ to myself, over and over. As I said ‘hijab’, ‘hijab’, ‘hijab’ to myself, I felt the power of the word wash over me.

Let truth be told. “hijab” is so powerful and profound that it has scared those that walk the mighty corridors of Palais Bourbon. Although it is not too hard to process the fuss made by the French over ‘hijab’, if one looks at the history behind it which traces back to the invasion and colonisation of Algeria in 1830 by the French. The colonisation brought the Cremieux Decree, a law requiring Muslim Algerian natives to renounce their religion and culture if they desired French citizenship. 

This colonial mindset (which Indians can unfortunately relate to), is the belief that the coloniser’s language and practices are superior to those of the colonised. This imperial mindset was used as a moral justification for the French while bullying Algerian Muslim women into adopting French culture under the false cover of women’s liberation. Hijab acquired new significance in the 20th century, as a visible symbol of resistance to colonisation in France. In 2004, France banned hijab from being worn in French public schools, and in 2010, prohibited full-face veils. Ironically, in 2020 during the COVID-19 outbreak France mandated mask-wearing in public spaces, while still banning Muslim face coverings.

History aside, I finally gathered the courage to look at the Karnataka video. I saw the video, which I believe was not more than a minute long but after watching it once, I felt as though the walk the hijab clad young woman walked lasted hours. I just could not believe that this happened in India. France is foreign, far-off place; but this atrocity cannot happen in India, not in my India where women are adorned in temples and worshipped as Laxmi and Saraswati. Clearly, what I saw — no matter how graphic — was real. Sadly, it is becoming increasingly evident that the violent rhetoric of Indian politics has reached a dangerous new pitch, achieving a new high with each passing day.

In Modi’s India, anything is a political tool as long as it aligns with the agenda – a cow, a romance, a dua, a hymn and now a woman. This begins to show the desperation of religious hatred and misogyny, bent on tearing apart the composite culture of this once great, secular nation. 

Unfortunately, the ideology that led to Gandhi’s assassination has risen from the fringes to dominating the mainstream cultural moment. Nationalistic zealots pampered by right wing politicians and promoted by the Indian elite have festered Indian society to the extent that the country now stands at the brink of a Muslim genocide.

To those who object to hijab, I ask what is it that you hate about a hijabi woman? Do you hate a hijabi woman because in your mind she is repressed? Or is it because you are threatened by a woman who is defiant? Or by a woman who is autonomous? Or by a woman who is unafraid to exercise her freedom to dress up as she wishes? It seems the one whose thinking is repressed is you.

No one would disagree on school uniforms, but India has always been inclusive and aware of the different shades of its society and has permitted Sikh turbans and head coverings for nuns, so why this fuss about hijab? If the intention is to empower women, then, why prevent hijabi girls from attending school? Are you this ignorant that you have not noticed the guts and grit of hijabi women? I recommend you read up on Nobel laureate Mala Yousafzai, United States representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district IIlhan Omar and Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

___________

Samina Salim, Ph.D., is Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacological & Pharmaceutical Sciences, Houston College of Pharmacy. She was born in Lucknow and raised in Aligarh and moved to the United States in 1999. The views expressed here are author’s own and Clarion India does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.

theclarionindia
theclarionindiahttps://clarionindia.net
Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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