Resolve Hijab Controversy by Enacting Uniform Civil Code

Hijab Row is Totally Absurd

By Parmanand Pandey

Hijab controversy is raging in the country. Ideally, there should be no objection to what one wears if it does not violate decency and decorum. Modern Muslim feminists like Wafa Sultan, Ayan Hirsi Ali have, in fact, been campaigning against those Islamic orthodoxies, which are retrogressive.  They have said unequivocally in their books that any type of veil is retrogressive and, therefore, earlier this practice is eschewed by the Muslim women the better. However, presently society appears to have got divided along religious lines.  Even those, who have till yesterday been opposing the dictates of Taliban for women to compulsorily wear veils and not to venture out of their houses without the company of any male member have come now out in support of the Hijab and Burqa for women. Sudden change in their attitudes may be intriguing but those who have closely watched them in the last few years would never be surprised. Anyway, the matter is now sub-judice and hopefully, the ruling of the High Court will settle this issue.

The moot question is whether Hijab or Burqa are essential and integral parts of the religion or simply a symbol of a distinct identity. There is no doubt that it is now being used as a new phenomenon for asserting religiosity. Earlier it was being worn by a few women, that too, under the pressure of their menfolk but now it has become a politico-religious tool. Men and women of different communities and areas, of course, have been wearing such traditional clothes which could make them different and distinct from the people of other places. Even the persons belonging to the same religion have been wearing different types of dresses. This has been the beauty of our diversity. For example, the style of wearing a Dhoti by Brahmin differentiates him from the ways of wearing by a Kshatriya or Vaishya or other castes. The style of wearing a Lungi of a Panjabi is distinct from a Keralite. A Bengali’s dhoti looks separate from a Rajasthani or UPian or Bihari.

Thus, in a way the trousers or pants have brought a welcome change among men and as it has proved to be a big equaliser. Saris are also worn in different ways by women across the country. A Bengali’s style is district from those of Marathi or other places. But Burqa is a regimented dress as it has come from abroad. It denies any scope of diversity regardless of area or region.

In our university days, we have seen Buddhist students coming from Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma, who used to wear a loose saffron robe or habit by which they could be easily recognised. But it was meant only for monks and not for levity. Although some Muslim boys, not all, have been wearing long Kurtas and short pyjamas, which also gave them a separate recognition. But this freedom has been available only after the higher secondary level. It was impossible to see any burqa-clad girl in any school, college, or university except in Madrassas. Burqa has been considered to be a symbol of bondage and most of the educated girls have been vociferously raising their voices to get rid of this bondage.

It is now clear that girls in Karnataka and elsewhere have not taken this decision to wear Burqa or hijab on their own. They m have reportedly been instigated or radicalised to take up such a retrogressive step by the Campus Front of India an outfit of the People’s Front of India, which has its roots in Kerala. Obviously, the Hindu boys took the steps of wearing the saffron scarf in reaction, which also cannot be endorsed in any case. If they are studying in any Gurukul or Mutt, there is no bar on them to wear saffron or any other prescribed clothes.

But look at the brazenness of some people, who have been appreciating the insanity of a burqa-clad girl, who was shouting an Islamic slogan and mocking scores of Hindu boys. Instead of hauling up that cranky girl for her highly uncouth and ugly behaviour, there are many who are full of praise for her dementia. Hindu boys should also have been scolded for raising slogans in retaliation to Burqa.

At a time when the women are happily moving shoulder to shoulder with men. Can they be caged with their clumsy dress like Burqa or Hijab? After all, there has to be some semblance of discipline about dress in certain fields and there should be no exemption from that. For instance, if a Muslim woman is serving in the police or military, can she be allowed to wear Burqa, even it is integral to her religion? Similarly, A Muslim Advocate cannot claim to have the liberty to wear Burqa in the Courtroom in the name of her religious identity. The same is the case if a particular attire is prescribed in any company or institution, the same cannot be allowed to be diluted.  How can these Muslim girl-children be permitted to wear Burqa in a school, which has a prescribed dress code?

However, let it be hastened to say that where there is no dress code, there should be complete freedom to wear anything of his/her choice subject to decency and acceptability in society. Like no one can insist on entering a temple, a mosque or a Gurdwara with their shoes on in the name of individual freedom. In some temples, men are allowed to enter only with bare chests and dhotis and in Gurudawaras one can enter only after covering the head. Nobody can be allowed to defy it in the name of freedom. In the same way, the food habits differ from place to place and person to person, but no one can claim to have the liberty of eating any and everything without having any regard to the sentiments of persons and the place.

Hopefully, the responsible persons of the society of different religions will rise to the occasion to maintain peace and cordiality. Most of such problems and difficulties can be got over by enacting the Common Civil Code for the entire citizenry.