Bengaluru : Karnataka High Court on Tuesday observed that the Holy Quran does not mandate the wearing of the hijab, stating that it is a cultural practice and used as apparel as a measure of social security.
Observations of the bench of Karnataka High Court comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S Dixit, and Justice JM Khazi came while dismissing various pleas challenging a ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions.
“At the most, the practice of wearing this apparel may have something to do with culture but certainly not with religion. This gains credence from Yusuf Ali’s Note 3764 to verse 59 which runs as under: ‘…the times were those of insecurity (see next verse) and they were asked to cover themselves with outer garments when walking abroad.’ It was never contemplated that they should be confined to their houses like prisoners,” the Court said in its order.
The High Court said that the history of mankind is replete with instances of abuse and oppression of women. The region and the times from which Islam originated were not an exception. The era before the introduction of Islam is known as Jahiliya-a time of barbarism and ignorance, the Court observed.
The Court said that “the Quran shows concern for the cases of ‘molestation of innocent women’ and therefore, it recommended wearing of this and other apparel as a measure of social security. Maybe in the course of time, some elements of religion permeated into this practice as ordinarily happens in any religion.”
“However, that per se does not render the practice predominantly religious and much less essential to the Islamic faith. This becomes evident from Ali’s footnote 3768 to verse 60 which concludes with the following profound line “Alas! We must ask ourselves the question: ‘Are these conditions present among us today?’ Thus, it can be reasonably assumed that the practice of wearing hijab had a thick nexus to the socio-cultural conditions then prevalent in the region,” the Court said.
“The veil was a safe means for the women to leave the confines of their homes. Ali’s short but leading question is premised on this analysis. What is not religiously made
obligatory therefore cannot be made a quintessential aspect of the religion through public agitations or by the passionate arguments in courts,” the Court noted.
“The Holy Quran does not mandate wearing of hijab or headgear for Muslim women. Whatever is stated in the above suras, we say, is only a directory, because of the absence of prescription of penalty or penance for not wearing hijab, the linguistic structure of verses supports this view. This apparel at the most is a means to gain access to public places and not a religious end in itself. It was a measure of women enablement and not a figurative constraint,” the Court said in its order copy.
The Hijab row had erupted in January this year when the Government PU College in Udupi allegedly barred six girls wearing the hijab from entering. Following this, the girls sat in protest outside college over being denied entry.
After this, boys of several colleges in Udupi started attending classes wearing saffron scarves. This protest spread to other parts of the state as well leading to protests and agitations in several places in Karnataka.
As a result, the Karnataka government said that all students must adhere to the uniform and banned both hijab and saffron scarves till an expert committee decides on the issue. On February 5, the pre-University education board released a circular stating that the students can only wear the uniform approved by the school administration and no other religious attire will be allowed in colleges.
The order stated that in case a uniform is not prescribed by management committees, then students should wear dresses that go well with the idea of equality and unity, and does not disturb the social order.
A batch of petitions was filed against the government’s rule in the Karnataka High Court by some girls seeking permission to wear the hijab in educational institutions. A bench of Karnataka High Court comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S Dixit, and Justice JM Khazi heard the petitions challenging the government rule on dress code.
On February 10, the High Court issued an interim order stating that said students should not wear any religious attire to classes till the court issues the final order. The hearings related to the Hijab case were concluded on February 25 and the court had reserved its judgement.