Muslim organizations in Kerala are protesting against catholic schools in the state where the hijab was banned inside the school campus. Muslim Youth League (MYL), Muslim Students Federation (MSF), and Students Islamic Organisation (SIO) protested on Monday, 26th September 2022, as Providence Girls Higher Secondary School in Kozhikode barred students from wearing headscarves in the institution.
This is the second catholic school in the state to ban hijab on their campus. It is notable that a Kozhikode school run by a congregation called Apostolic Carmel Southern Province had also banned the hijab on the school premises and Muslim organizations protested against the school on 26th August 2022.
A student of Providence Girls Higher Secondary School studying in the 11th standard was instructed by the school authorities that she cannot wear a headscarf as it was not a part of the uniform. The parents of the girl lodged a complaint with the school organization. As the school stayed firm on its rules, the student took a transfer certificate from the school.
MYL issued a statement after this incident. In this statement, it said, “Now, the student has obtained a transfer certificate from that school. It is a violation of her fundamental right. The inaction on the part of the state government in taking action against such institutions cannot be accepted.”
On 26th September 2022, protesting Muslim organizations took to the streets in large numbers and demonstrated outside the school. The police had to use force to disperse the mob. Some of the protesters were also detained.
In another such incident that took place in Kozhikode in August 2022, the parent of a girl aspiring to take admission to the 11th standard filed a complaint with state Education Minister V Sivankutty. In his complaint, the parent alleged that his daughter is being denied permission to wear a hijab at a government-aided school she enrolled in for the 11th standard on 23rd August 2022.
This school is also run by Catholics. A congregation called Apostolic Carmel Southern Province governs the Christian management board of the school. On Friday, 26th August 2022, a number of Muslim organizations, including the Campus Front of India, organized a demonstration, which resulted in a tense situation outside the school. To control the incident, police were called in.
While interacting with the media, the student’s father said, “This is against the religious freedom of an individual as well as the secular fabric of the state. The school uniform is a half skirt and a top with an overcoat. This may even make the female students uncomfortable as there are male teachers too. But we don’t have any objection with adhering to the school uniform, but wanted the permission to wear hijab also.”
He added, “The principal asked my daughter not to wear a hijab. Shawl (dupatta) is also not allowed in the school. I repeatedly asked the principal whether this means hijabs are also not allowed since there is no permission to wear shawls. Finally, the principal categorically said that hijab was not allowed. This is questioning the religious freedom of an individual in a state like Kerala. Hence I have lodged a complaint with the minister.”
According to school principal Silvi, there is no change in the norms of the school. Silvi said, “The things have been explained to them (the father and the daughter). There is an option for the student to get a transfer from the school. In this school, this would be the norm.”
Out of the organisations named above, Campus Front of India is the student wing of the Popular Front of India. Students Islamic Organization is the students’ wing of Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind. PFI and all its allied organizations were banned by the government of India on 28th September 2022./ opindia