India dismisses U.S. official’s remarks on hijab controversy

Women and children staging a protest against the recent Karnataka hijab issue Karnataka in Vijayawada on February 11, 2022.

Women and children staging a protest against the recent Karnataka hijab issue Karnataka in Vijayawada on February 11, 2022.

After U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Rashad Hussain voiced his opinion on the Karnataka hijab row, India on Saturday responded saying “motivated comments on our internal issues are not welcome.”

The statement from the Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Arindam Bagchi came after a senior official of the U.S. government remarked on the hijab controversy in Karnataka, arguing that religious freedom included the freedom to wear religious attire of one’s choice.

“A matter regarding dress code in some educational institutions in the State of Karnataka is under judicial examination by the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka. Our constitutional framework and mechanism, as well as our democratic ethos and polity, are the context in which issues are considered and resolved,” said Mr. Bagchi.

The response came hours after Mr. Hussain commented on the unfolding issue in Karnataka saying, “Hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom and stigmatise and marginalise women and girls.” “Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one’s religious attire. The Indian State of Karnataka should not determine permissibility of religious clothing,” said Mr. Hussain, who has been vocal on similar issues pertaining to the Uyghur minority in China and other places where minority rights are under threat.

Mr. Hussain was the latest international voice to express concern over the rights of religious minorities in India. Earlier, the Government of Pakistan had expressed a similar opinion, with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi arguing that the controversy was part of Indian state’s “plan of ghettoisation of Muslims.” “To deny anyone this fundamental right and terrorise them for wearing a hijab is absolutely repressive,” Mr. Qureshi said. His comments were followed by Nobel Prize-winning activist Malala Yousafzai, who said, barring hijab-wearing young women from educational institutions was “horrifying”. U.S. linguist and civil rights defender Prof Noam Chomsky also focused on the controversy and said, “Islamophobia has taken a most lethal form in India, turning some 250 million Indian Muslims into a persecuted minority.”

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Printable version | Jun 27, 2022 12:48:57 am |