Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai has weighed in on the controversy over Muslim students alleging that they were not allowed to enter campuses and classrooms wearing the hijab in Karnataka. The girls’ education activist tweeted that “refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying.”
The hijab protests began last month at the Government Girls PU College in Karnataka’s Udupi when six students alleged that they had been barred from classes for insisting on wearing the headscarf. Right-wing groups in Udupi and Chikkamagaluru objected to Muslim girls wearing the hijab to class.
Soon, the controversy spilled beyond the borders of Karnataka and surfaced in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Puducherry. A minister in Madhya Pradesh ruled in favour of “discipline” and a “uniform dress code”. In Puducherry, the authorities have asked the head of a government school to investigate allegations of a teacher objecting to headscarves in class.
Ms Yousafzai, taking note of the developments, tweeted, “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.”
“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. https://t.co/UGfuLWAR8I
— Malala (@Malala) February 8, 2022
All schools and colleges in Karnataka will be shut for the next three days. Chief Minister Basavaraj S Bommai has appeals “to maintain peace and harmony”. The Karnataka High Court is hearing petitions filed by five women from a government college in Udupi, questioning hijab restrictions. The hearing will continue today.
Ms Yousafzai was born in Pakistan. She was shot at by Taliban terrorists in 2012 when she was only 11 for speaking out publicly on behalf of girls and their right to learn, which made her a target in Pakistan, where, in her own words, “welcoming a baby girl is not always cause for celebration.”
She was taken to a hospital in Birmingham, where she recovered and later continued her activism for education for the girl child. In 2014, after months of surgeries and rehabilitation, she joined her family in their new home in the UK. With her father’s help, she set up Malala Fund, a charity dedicated to giving every girl an opportunity to achieve a future she chooses.
In recognition of her work, Ms Yousafzai received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2014 and became the youngest-ever Nobel laureate. She went on to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford and graduated in 2020.