As the hijab (head scarves worn by Muslim women) row escalates in Karnataka, Pakistani human rights activist Malala Yousafzai has said refusing to let girls go to school wearing hijabs is “horrifying”.
The Nobel Laureate has hit out at Indian leaders and condemned them over the hijab controversy in Karnataka. “College is forcing us to choose between studies and the hijab. Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying. Objectification of women persists — for wearing less or more. Indian leaders must stop the marginalisation of Muslim women,” tweeted Malala, who first grabbed the world’s attention when in October 2012, a Taliban gunman shot at her as she rode home on a bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Malala was only 15 at the time, but had already become a well known face in her country for her advocacy of education for women, in opposition to hardline Islamist groups. In 2014, she became the youngest ever Nobel Prize winner for her contribution to the cause of women’s education.
In the meantime, Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai has ordered schools and colleges to remain shut for next three days after tension erupted over the hijab row in various parts of the state.
The Karnataka High Court has appealed to students and the public to maintain peace. The court is hearing a petition filed by two girl students from Udupi’s Pre-University Government College against the Karnataka government’s directive prohibiting them from attending classes wearing a hijab.
Tamil actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan has also reacted strongly to the controversy. “What is happening in Karnataka is provoking unrest. A religious wall of poison is being erected among the students. What is happening in the neighbouring state should not come to Tamil Nadu. It is time for the progressive forces to be more careful,” the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) chief has tweeted.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has also come out in support of students in Karnataka, saying it’s a woman’s right to decide what she wears and that this right is protected by the Indian Constitution. “Whether it is a bikini, a ghoonghat, a pair of jeans, or a hijab, it is a woman’s right to decide what she wants to wear. This right is GUARANTEED by the Indian constitution. Stop harassing women,” Priyanka tweeted with the hashtag #ladkihoonladsaktihoon.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has responded with a ‘thumbs-up’ emoji to sister Priyanka’s tweet.