The High Court of Karnataka, India has upheld the ban on hijab in classrooms across the southern Indian state, ruling that the hijab is not an ‘essential religious practice’ in Islam. The verdict has set a possible precedent for restricting religious garb for minorities across the country.
“We are of the considered opinion that wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice in Islamic faith,” Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi wrote in the judgement.
The court upheld that school uniforms do not infringe on constitutional rights, even in regards to religious dress. Muslims make up the largest religious minority in India, comprising 13 per cent of the population. Approximately 2 per cent of the Indian population is Christian and another 2 per cent is Sikh.
Multiple government colleges in India have recently banned the hijab from classrooms, forcing Muslim girls to choose whether to remove their hijab or miss class. Many students opted to protest the ban, sacrificing their own studies to uphold their religious faith and freedom. The ban sparked national and international outrage, with many celebrating the strength and courage of the Indian Muslim students.
Karnataka is the only southern state in India ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In February, a video showing a Muslim girl wearing hijab being accosted by a group of saffron-clad boys as she tried to enter her school went viral online, generating an international controversy known as ‘hijab row.’
Earlier this month, Indian forces reportedly stormed a madrassa for Muslim girls in Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK), forcefully evicting the students and sealing the school for unspecified reasons.