Al-Qaeda targets India in hijab row

Karnataka Home Minister says police are “going after” the video; Muskan's father distances himself from Zawahiri's comments

April 06, 2022 09:54 pm | Updated 11:02 pm IST - New Delhi/BENGALURU

Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. File 

Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. File  | Photo Credit: AP

Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has used the recent Hijab controversy in Karnataka to target democracy in India, saying "we must stop being deceived by the mirage of the pagan Hindu democracy".

In the 8.43-minute video clip released by the terror outfit online, and verified by the American SITE Intelligence Group, Zawahiri also showered praises on Karnataka college student Muskan Khan for confronting a group of students opposing hijab in her college in early February.

In the Arabic video clip, with English subtitles provided by SITE Intelligence Group that tracks online activity of white supremacist and jihadist organisations, Zawahiri also reads out a poem which he says he wrote for "our Mujahid sister" and for her "brave feat".

"May Allah reward her for exposing the reality of Hindu India and the deception of its pagan democracy," the al-Qaeda chief said in the video, also ending speculations about his death due to natural causes.

The video, the al-Qaeda chief's second in the past six months, focused mostly on the hijab controversy.

"...We must shake off the delusions that confound us... we must stop being deceived by the mirage of the pagan Hindu democracy of India, which, to begin with, was never more than a tool to oppress Muslims," said Zawahiri, one of the world's most wanted terrorists.

‘Human rights’

Addressing the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent, he said they must realise that in the real world there is no such thing as 'human rights' or 'respect of the Constitution' or 'law'.

"…It is exactly the same scheme of deception which the West has employed against us, the true nature of which was exposed by France, Holland, and Switzerland when they banned the hijab while allowing public nudity," he said.

Also read | Hijab not an essential practice of Islam, rules Karnataka High Court

"The enemies of Islam are one and the same…who vilify the hijab and assail the Islamic Shariah... It is a war on Islam, its core doctrines, its laws, ethics, and etiquettes." Calling for the unity of Muslims from China to the Islamic Maghreb, and from the Caucasus to Somalia, Zawahiri said, "We must rely on Allah alone and actively cooperate with one another." "We must realise that the governments imposed on us, specifically in Pakistan and Bangladesh, do not defend us; rather, they defend the very enemies that they have empowered them to fight against us," he said.

The hijab row began in January from a government PU College in Udupi where six students who attended classes wearing headscarves in violation of the stipulated dress code were sent out. It later spread to a few other colleges in nearby Kundapur and Byndoor.

The Karnataka High Court later dismissed all writ petitions filed by Muslim girl students seeking permission to wear a hijab in colleges, saying hijab is not a part of essential religious practices of Islam.

Karnataka Home Minister’s claim

In Bengaluru, Karnataka Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said the State police were “going after” the video by Zawahiri.

Speaking to reporters, the Home Minister said, “this proves what we have been saying from the beginning, and what the High Court of Karnataka observed in its judgment on hijab row that there is scope for argument that there are unseen hands at work to engineer social unrest. It is proven now”.

“It is not an ordinary thing for children to act [protest] that way, ‘‘ the court had said. “The al-Qaeda video proves what we were saying,” Mr. Jnanendra said.

“The Home Department and the police are going after this video to ascertain where that came from, where it is going and what the link here is,” Mr. Jnanendra said.

“Don’t know about video”

However, Muskan's father distanced himself from Zawahiri's comments, terming them "wrong" and said he and his family were living peacefully in India.

In Mandya in Karnataka, Muskan's father Mohammad Hussain Khan told reporters, "We don't know anything about it [video], we don't know who he is. I saw him today for the first time. He has said something in Arabic... We are all living here with love and trust like brothers." Asked about Zawahiri praising Muskan, he said, "People say whatever they want... This is unnecessarily causing trouble. We are living peacefully in our country, we don't want him to talk about us, as he is not related to us... it is wrong, it is an attempt to create division among us." Observing that Muskan too has seen the video, Mr. Khan said whatever Zawahiri has said is 'wrong.' "... She [Muskan] is still a student, she wants to study," he said.

Asked about demands from a section of people for an inquiry to find any links, Mr. Khan said, “let it be done, there is law, police and government for it.”

Condemning the statement by the terror group, Karnataka Higher Education Minister C.N. Ashwath Narayan said, "Action will be taken against organisations and people linked to them." He said the State government had not brought any legislation against practices of any community and was only following the law.

Meanwhile, talking to reporters on the sidelines of a programme at Umiam in Meghalaya, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma asserted that Indian Muslims would not respond to the call by Zawahiri and embroil themselves in the hijab row after the ruling by the Karnataka High Court on the matter.

He said the Muslims of the country would abide by the judgment and continue to respect the basic tenets of the country's education system.

(With inputs from Bengaluru Bureau)

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