Conflicts & War

India’s pro-hijab protests find face in girl who stood up to mob

New Delhi, Feb 9 (EFE).- The image of a young Indian Muslim woman standing up to a mob of Hindu students bullying her for wearing the hijab outside a college where it had been banned, and shouting “Allah-hu-akbar” (Allah is great), was on Wednesday being widely shared with messages of support as she became a symbol of the struggle of India’s religious minorities.

“It’s the roar of just a lone lioness!” tweeted Kaneez Fatima, a lawmaker in the southern state of Karnataka, which has witnessed clashes between Hindu and Muslim students over the banning of hijab in several educational institutions.

The now-iconic image shows the girl, dressed in black and wearing the Islamic veil, raising a fist – which reminds of Eugene Delacroix’s iconic painting “Liberty Leading the People” – and has been often accompanied by the slogan “hijab is a fundamental right.”

The video that captured the scene was shot on Tuesday as tensions rose over the ban on hijab in several educational institutes in southern India, which resulted in the closure of all schools and colleges in Karnataka for three days after clashes led by huge mobs of Hindu students.

The girl’s gesture has also resonated in neighboring Muslim-majority countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the ban on wearing hijab in classes was widely criticized.

In a tweet, Pakistani activist and 2014 Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai urged the Indian government to “stop the marginalisation of Muslim women,” adding that “refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying.”

A spokesperson of Afghanistan’s Taliban led government, Inamullah Samangani also backed “Indian Muslim girls struggle for the hijab” and insisted that the attire was not just “Arab, Iranian, Egyptian or Pakistani culture, but an Islamic value for all Muslim girls across the world.”

“Especially in the secular world, they sacrifice (…) to defend their religious belief,” he said.

However, several Indian political figures, most of them from the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party which is in power both in Karnataka and the center, criticized the girl and even accused her of provocation.

“Why did she provoke them,” Karnataka’s Education Minister BC Nagesh said, insisting that the Hindu students did not mean to attack the girl.

“One cannot shout “Allah is reat!” or “Glory to Ram!” inside the campus,” he told a local broadcaster, also referring to the slogan being chanted by the Hindu students.

Although India is a constitutionally secular country, tensions have frequently flared up between the Hindu Majority – which consists around 80 percent of the population – and the Muslims (14 percent), who have alleged discrimination and attacks by Hindu groups backed by the ruling party. EFE


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