A US government body that monitors and reports on religious freedom abroad has criticised Karnataka amid the row over Muslim students’ demand for wearing hijab on campus.
Rashad Hussain, the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, or IRF, tweeted “hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom”, referring to the controversy in Karnataka that has prompted the state government to keep schools and colleges shut till the high court completes looking into petitions on the hijab ban.
“Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one’s religious attire. The Indian state of Karnataka should not determine permissibility of religious clothing. Hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom and stigmatize and marginalize women and girls,” Mr Hussain’s office tweeted.
Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one’s religious attire. The Indian state of Karnataka should not determine permissibility of religious clothing. Hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom and stigmatize and marginalize women and girls.
— Amb. at Large for International Religious Freedom (@IRF_Ambassador) February 11, 2022
The Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom of which Mr Hussain is an ambassador comes under the US Office of International Religious Freedom, which has in the past commented on tensions along religious lines in India.
The Karnataka High Court has said it would resume hearing petitions challenging the hijab restrictions on Monday. The high court in its interim order today said no religious attire, whether shawls or hijab, will be allowed inside educational institutions.
The protests that began last week against a hijab ban in one government-run college in the coastal town Udupi spread to many other institutions where girls wearing hijabs were not allowed entry. As saffron scarf-wearing students launched counter protests, violence at one college forced the police to fire teargas to control the flare-up.
India is yet to respond to Mr Hussain’s comments on the hijab row in Karnataka.
Mr Hussain was appointed Ambassador-at-Large for IRF by the US Senate in December last year. He is the first Muslim Ambassador-at-Large for IRF. He previously held several high-level positions in the US government including serving as the Special Envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation during the Obama administration.