The hijab-clad Muslim student Muskan Khan is lauded on social media for confronting the extremists who heckled her outside a college in Karnataka, India. The viral video showed a 19-year-old Hijab Girl chanting Allah hu Akbar in response to a large group of right-wing boys wearing saffron-coloured shawls. This colour represents Hindu extremism and is proudly used by Hindu nationalist groups, including Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The group kept shouting “Jai Shri Raam” (victory to Lord Ram) as they continued to bully her on the street.
In recent weeks, right-wing protests against the girl’s choice of wearing a Hijab in schools have been getting more vigorous than ever. It all started after a government-run school in Karnataka imposed a ban on Hijab in classrooms. Several Muslim girls began protesting the decision, but the issue snowballed. Other institutions also set the same restrictions with the support of Hindu nationalist groups. Most of them did not even let the girls enter their premises due to the fear of saffron shawls. When things started to get violent, all Karnataka schools and colleges closed down on 8 February for 3 days.
Hijab Girl Chanting Allah hu Akbar Beomes an Icon
A lone Hijab girl chanting Allah hu Akbar in front of extremists gained the entire world’s attention. Many called her “hero”, “lioness”, “brave”, “courageous” on social media for standing up to fanaticism. Even Hindu celebrities came forward to condemn the actions by the boys from their own community. Muslim girls have been wearing Hijab in India for decades as a part of their faith and choice. Hijab has always been a hot topic of controversy in western countries, but it remained a common sight in India. However, it became controversial in India too when BJP came to power, and Hindu-Muslim conflicts escalated.
Filmmaker Pooja Bhatt took a strong stance against the behaviour of young boys heckling Muskan. She noticed how an entire generation had been corrupted to believe the same narrative of communal hate being promoted across the country.
Bollywood actress Richa Chadha was also angered by the cowardly act of the saffron shawls. She said that these boys would become further miserable in the future. The actress also blamed their families for poor parenting skills. In the end, she decided to “spit” on these kinds of people.
Human rights activist and Noble Laureate Malala Yousafzai reminded everyone how some groups have always objected to women’s choice, whether it is about wearing Hijab or bikini. Right-wing and government officials opined that wearing Hijab in schools was “regressive”, but they did not realize that the marginalization of women was the actual regression. She called out the Indian leaders to put a stop to this madness.
Indian Leaders Do not Support the Choice of Muslim Girls
On the other hand, Indian leaders have taken communal overtone and did not clarify their stance on the Hijab row. Most of them deflected the questions about the behaviour of Hindu boys and focused on the Hijab ban. They turned the issue into something about uniformity in schools. It did not make sense as the uniform can go perfectly well with Hijab as it goes with saffron shawls, Sikh Turbans, and Christian cross. This is why the statement of the actor turned politician, and BJP MP Hema Malini broke the hearts of many. She opined that schools were for education and students should not take “religious matters” there. She continued that girls can wear whatever they want outside of school, undermining their choice.
State-affiliated media also tried to push the narrative that saffron wearing goons were somehow “progressive” for bullying a young woman. Former Foreign Secretary of India, Nirupama Menon Rao, gave them a shut-up call. She commended the bravery of Muskan and found no regression in a Hijab girl chanting Allah hu Akbar to a bunch of extremists.
India is not Safe for Minorities
Persecution and targeting of Muslims are regular under the leadership of Modi’s BJP. This new Hijab ban strategy is also a part of the same plan. Indian security forces also attack the demonstrators against the Hijab ban with tear gas instead of protecting them from saffron shawls. Critics opined that BJP was deliberately airing the issue to maintain Hindu-Muslim conflict because of the upcoming elections. State assembly elections are due next year, and right-wing fronts have instigated such disputes because they have always provided more traction to BJP.
With the BJP’s lengthy reign since 2014, Hindu extremists have been emboldened to damage the secular foundations of India at the cost of its minorities. They not only attack Muslims in various forms but also Dalits, Christians, and Sikhs. Some of them openly call for mass genocide of Muslims and other religions so India can be a Hindu only nation.