WASHINGTON : Despite its own difficulties with Islamophobia at home, the United States has weighed in on India’s hijab debate, with a senior US official stating the government should not decide whether religious garb is permissible.
“The capacity to choose one’s religious dress is part of religious freedom.
The Indian state of Karnataka should not have the authority to decide whether religious garb is acceptable. School-based hijab bans violate religious freedom while stigmatising and marginalising women and children “As the issue polarised opinion throughout the world, Rashad Hussain, the Biden administration’s Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, tweeted on Friday.
Leading public intellectual Noam Chomsky was among those who came down on the Modi government, accusing it at a Congressional briefing of “systematically dismantling Indian secular democracy,” and turning Muslims into a “persecuted minority.”New Delhi pushed back against the charges, accusing critics of “motivated comments” that did take into account India’s “constitutional framework and mechanisms, as well as our democratic ethos and polity, (which) are the context in which issues are considered and resolved.”
Asserting that “a matter regarding dress code in some educational institutions in the State of Karnataka is under judicial examination by the High Court of Karnataka,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “Those who know India well would have a proper appreciation of these realities. Motivated comments on our internal issues are not welcome.”
Hussain is an Indian-origin former Obama White House adviser whose family came from Bihar; her father, Mohammad Akbar Hussain, was a geologist. His mother Ruqaiya, older sister Lubna, and younger brother Saad are all physicians.The Muslim civil rights and advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) criticised the developments in Karnataka, saying the hijab ban is “just one more example of the mistreatment of Indian Muslims and the Islamophobic actions that the nation’s government either carries out, ignores, or excuses.”With numerous and frequent transgressions at home, including an increase in assaults against Sikhs and other minorities, including anti-semitic acts, the United States is not in a good position to lecture the rest of the world on Islamophobia. CAIR itself just filed a lawsuit in federal court in Missouri against a shooting range that discriminated against a Muslim lady wearing a headscarf.According to the lawsuit, Rania Barakat, a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, was denied service at the Frontier Justice gun range in Missouri and told she would have to remove it because the range had a regulation that prohibited headwear except for front-facing baseball caps.In Canada and France, the hijab issue is also a hot topic. CAIR recently highlighted the case of Fatemeh Anvari, a grade 3 teacher who was told she would no longer be able to teach at Chelsea Elementary School in Quebec due to Bill 21, a state law that prohibits certain government employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols while on the job.”Clearly discriminatory laws like Bill 21 violate the religious freedom of Canadian Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Sikhs who dress in religious garb as part of their beliefs.” “It is outrageous that a country that claims to follow international human rights and freedom standards allows this unjust rule to stay in existence,” CAIR noted in its criticism.