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EDITORIAL: The split decision delivered on Thursday by a two-member bench of the Indian Supreme Court after hearing petitions against a high court verdict on ban of hijab in schools in the BJP-ruled Karnataka state, is reflective of the increasing polarization in that society along religious lines.

While maintaining that wearing of hijab was a “matter of choice” Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia said that “asking girls to take off their hijab before they enter the school gates is first an invasion on their privacy, then it is an attack on their dignity, and then ultimately it is a denial to them of secular education.”

Justice Hemant Gupta also invoked secularism but to say, “permitting one religious community to wear their religious symbols would be antithesis to secularism.” He surely is aware that there is no restriction on Sikh students wearing the turban, a symbol of their faith, to school.

Why then single out one community for discriminatory treatment? The matter has been referred to the chief justice, who is to set up a larger bench for further consideration of the case.

The row erupted last February when a college in Karnataka state slapped a ban on hijab, which was defied by students. The situation aggravated when scores of ultra-right boys wearing saffron scarves and hats appeared on the scene shouting “Jay Shri Ram” slogans to intimidate Muslim girls and women.

Soon afterwards, their parents approached the state high court for relief. But the court upheld the ban declaring that wearing the hijab is not part of essential religious practices under Islam.

It certainly is not the business of judges to tell people, especially religious minorities, whether or not a certain religious practice is permissible in their faith.

In fact, in the good old days when the political environment was different, in its judgement in the Tikayat Govindlalji vs. the state of Rajasthan case, the Supreme Court had held that the test to determine the question in deciding what is an integral part of a religion is whether it is regarded as integral by the community following that religion or not.

Besides, the Indian constitution proclaims “the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion” and that all denominations can manage their own affairs in matters of religion.

Clearly, it is not for the courts to poke their noses into people’s religious affairs, unless they undermine public order, morality or infringe on other communities rights, like the BJP zealots and their cohorts have been doing since the party’s Hindu extremist leader Narendra Modi became prime minister.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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Az_Iz Oct 20, 2022 07:37am
Every single point that you have mentioned here is so true.
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Mahsa Ahmini Oct 20, 2022 07:54pm
Hindutva inspired courts are far better than islamic inspired courts.
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Asia Bibi Oct 20, 2022 07:57pm
I left my native land Pakistan in the middle of the night fearing for my life. This article is a clear symbol of hypocrisy.
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HashBrown® Oct 22, 2022 12:48am
@Mahsa Ahmini, "Hindutva inspired courts are far better than islamic inspired courts." In a single line you have clarified the motivation we had to create Pakistan. Keep supporting your Hindutva courts and watch your country get smashed into even more pieces.
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