The United States is stepping up its support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people, according to Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Wally Adeyemo, as Iranians take to the streets to condemn the killing of Mahsa Amini. After Ebrahim Raisi’s administration blocked internet access for the majority of Iran, US Treasury Department issued licences on Friday to broaden the selection of internet services available to Iranians, Al Arabiya reports. Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian women, was taken into custody last week for “improper hijab” and shortly thereafter went into a coma. She passed away on Friday – sparking protests in Iranian streets and on social media. Read: At least 26 dead from protests in Iran, suggests state TV as violent unrest continues Foreign diplomats based in Tehran and internet monitoring organizations claim that several regions of the nation have blocked or restricted access to the internet, the Al Arabiya report says. US Deputy Secretary of Treasury, Wally Adeyemo, was quoted: “As courageous Iranians take to the streets to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, the United States is redoubling its support for the free flow of information to the Iranian people.” He claimed that the US was assisting Iranians in becoming better armed to thwart efforts by the government to restrict them. Read: Protests over hijab: Iranians experience near-total internet blackout The licences, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, will enable IT companies to offer more digital services to Iranians, such as cloud computing services, to enhance their online security and privacy. Following the most recent fatal protests and the death of Mahsa Amini, the US issued sanctions against Iran's morality police and six Iranians on Thursday. Iran Human Rights claims that during the protests, Iranian security forces had killed at least 31 citizens (IHR).
The High Court on Thursday ordered the authorities concerned to investigate the allegation of harassment of students wearing hijab and burqa in eight educational institutions. The HC bench of Justice Mozibur Rahman and Justice Khizir Hayat passed the order. The court also asked the Education Secretary, the Home Secretary and DG of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education to submit a report within 60 days stating what action has been taken against those involved in the incidents. The eight educational institutions are Barbarpur High School in Mahadevpur of Naogaon: Brojendraganj RC High School in Dirai upazila of Sunamganj; Bhadeswar Nasir Uddin High School in Golapganj of Sylhet; Department of Management in Kushtia Islamic University; Sher-e-Bangla High School in Senbagh of Noakhali; Joarganj Buddhist High School in Mirersarai of Chattogram; Satbaria High School in Chandlaish of Chattogram, And Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman University of Science and Technology in Gopalganj. READ: BCL-JCD clashes at DU: HC grants 35 JCD men anticipatory bail The court has declared August 11 as the next date for hearing. In 2019, Allama Mohammad Mahbub Alam, editor of the daily Al Ihsan and monthly Al Bayyanat, filed a writ petition with the HC attaching media reports on harassment of students and parents for wearing hijab and burqas. On July 1 that year, the court issued a rule after preliminary hearing. Mahbub Alam filed a supplementary petition last month citing media reports over harassment of students at educational institutions wearing burqa and hijab.
An administrative probe body formed over rumors about a teacher beating up students for wearing hijab at Daul Barbakpur High School in Naogaon’s Mahadebpur submitted a report after investigation on Monday. The committee has found evidence that some teachers and members of the management committee of the school had spread rumors against assistant headmistress Amodini Pal due to internal conflicts. The head of the committee Abdul Maleque, upazila livestock officer, along with two other members submitted the report to Mohadebpur Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mizanur Rahman around 8pm. UNO Mizanur Rahman said the committee did not find proof of students being punished for wearing hijab. The report said,”The committee believes that the school's assistant headmaster Amodini Pal and physical education teacher Badiul Alam have beaten the students on April 6 because of their school dress. Due to the internal dilemma of the school, a group attempted to divert the incident toward the hijab issue”. The inquiry committee has recommended legal action against those who have spread the rumor. The committee also recommended taking legal action against some 150 to 200 people who attacked the school on April 7 triggered by the rumor. UNO Mizanur Rahman said, “Head teacher of the school Dharani Kanta Barman only show-caused Amodini Pal for the incident which seemed intentional to the committee so it has recommended taking departmental action against him.” READ: Hijab row: Naogaon school headteacher files GD accusing 150 anonymous people The report also recommended taking departmental action against teacher Amodini Pal and teacher Badiul Alam for physically beating students in violation of government directives, he said. Regarding identifying the people who spread the rumors, UNO Mizanur said,”Some people have been identified by the committee. Their names will be disclosed after taking legal actions.” He said that the observations and recommendations made by the inquiry committee will be taken into account and action will be taken where necessary in this incident. Earlier on April 6, Amodini Pal, assistant headmistress of the school allegedly beat 16-18 students in the 8th, 9th and 10th classes of the school around 11am for not wearing school uniforms. Later, it turned into a "hijab" row and spread on social media. Although some of the girls who got punished were wearing hijab, others who violated the uniform code without wearing hijab, and also some boys (who were dealt with by a different, male teacher), were at the receiving end of the teachers' punishment on the day.
A recent court ruling upholding a ban on Muslim students wearing head coverings in schools has sparked criticism from constitutional scholars and rights activists who say that judicial overreach threatens religious freedoms in officially secular India. Even though the ban is only imposed in the southern state of Karnataka, critics worry it could be used as a basis for wider curbs on Islamic expression in a country already witnessing a surge of Hindu nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party. “With this judgment, the rule you are making can restrict the religious freedom of every religion,” said Faizan Mustafa, a scholar of freedom of religion and vice chancellor at the Hyderabad-based Nalsar University of Law. “Courts should not decide what is essential to any religion. By doing so, you are privileging certain practices over others.” Supporters of the decision say it’s an affirmation of schools’ authority to determine dress codes and govern student conduct, and that takes precedence over any religious practice. “Institutional discipline must prevail over individual choices. Otherwise, it will result in chaos,” said Karnataka Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi, who argued the state’s case in court. Before the verdict, more than 700 signatories including senior lawyers and rights advocates had expressed opposition to the ban in an open letter to the chief justice, saying that “the imposition of an absolute uniformity contrary to the autonomy, privacy and dignity of Muslim women is unconstitutional.” The dispute began in January when a government-run school in the city of Udupi, in Karnataka, barred students wearing hijabs from entering classrooms. Staffers said the Muslim headscarves contravened the campus’ dress code, and that it had to be strictly enforced. Muslims protested, and Hindus staged counter demonstrations. Soon more schools imposed their own restrictions, prompting the Karnataka government to issue a statewide ban. A group of female Muslim students sued on the grounds that their fundamental rights to education and religion were being violated. Read: India court upholds ban on hijab in schools and colleges But a three-judge panel, which included a female Muslim judge, ruled last month that the Quran does not establish the hijab as an essential Islamic practice and it may therefore be restricted in classrooms. The court also said the state government has the power to prescribe uniform guidelines for students as a “reasonable restriction on fundamental rights.” “What is not religiously made obligatory therefore cannot be made a quintessential aspect of the religion through public agitations or by the passionate arguments in courts,” the panel wrote. The verdict relied on what’s known as the essentiality test — basically, whether a religious practice is or is not obligatory under that faith. India’s constitution does not draw such a distinction, but courts have used it since the 1950s to resolve disputes over religion. In 2016, the high court in the southern state of Kerala ruled that head coverings were a religious duty for Muslims and therefore essential to Islam under the test. Two years later, India’s Supreme Court again used the test to overturn historical restrictions on Hindu women of certain ages entering a temple in the same state, saying it was not an “essential religious practice.” Critics say the essentiality test gives courts broad authority over theological matters where they have little expertise and where clergy would be more appropriate arbiters of faith. India’s Supreme Court is itself in doubt about the test. In 2019 it set up a nine-judge panel to reevaluate it, calling its legitimacy regarding matters of faith “questionable.” The matter is still under consideration. The lawsuit in Karnataka cited the 2016 Kerala ruling, but this time the justices came to the opposite conclusion — baffling some observers. “That’s why judges make for not-so-great interpreters of religious texts,” said Anup Surendranath, a professor of constitutional law at the Delhi-based National Law University. Surendranath said the most sensible avenue for the court would have been to apply a test of what Muslim women hold to be true from a faith perspective: “If wearing hijab is a genuinely held belief of Muslim girls, then why ... interfere with that belief at all?” Read: Hijab bans deepen Hindu-Muslim fault lines in Indian state The ruling has been welcomed by Bharatiya Janata Party officials including Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the federal minister of minority affairs, and B. C. Nagesh, Karnataka’s education minister. Satya Muley, a lawyer at the Bombay High Court, said it’s perfectly reasonable for the judiciary to place some limits on religious freedoms if they clash with dress codes, and the verdict will “help maintain order and uniformity in educational institutions.” “It is a question of whether it is the constitution, or does religion take precedence,” Muley said. “And the court’s verdict has answered just that by upholding the state’s power to put restrictions on certain freedoms that are guaranteed under the constitution.” Surendranath countered that the verdict was flawed because it failed to invoke the three “reasonable restrictions” under the constitution that let the state interfere with freedom of religion — for reasons of public order, morality or health. “The court didn’t refer to these restrictions, even though none of them are justifiable to ban hijabs in schools,” Surendranath said. “Rather, it emphasized homogeneity in schools, which is opposite of diversity and multiculturalism that our constitution upholds.” The Karnataka ruling has been appealed to India’s Supreme Court. Plaintiffs requested an expedited hearing on the grounds that a continued ban on the hijab threatens to cause Muslim students to lose an entire academic year. The court declined to hold an early hearing, however. Muslims make up just 14% of India’s 1.4 billion people, but nonetheless constitute the world’s second-largest Muslim population for a nation. The hijab has historically not been prohibited or restricted in public spheres, and women donning the headscarf — like other outward expressions of faith, across religions — is common across the country. The dispute has further deepened sectarian fault lines, and many Muslims worry hijab bans could embolden Hindu nationalists and pave the way for more restrictions targeting Islam. “What if the ban goes national?” said Ayesha Hajeera Almas, one of the women who challenged the ban in the Karnataka courts. “Millions of Muslim women will suffer.” Mustafa agreed. “Hijab for many girls is liberating. It is a kind of bargain girls make with conservative families as a way for them to go out and participate in public life,” he said. “The court completely ignored this perspective.”
When Aliya Assadi was 12, she wore a hijab while representing her southern Indian state of Karnataka at a karate competition. She won gold. Five years later she tried to wear one to her junior college, the equivalent of a U.S. high school. She never made it past the campus gate, turned away under a new policy barring the religious headgear. “It’s not just a piece of cloth,” Assadi said while visiting a friend’s house. She wore a niqab, an even more concealing garment that veils nearly the entire face with just a slit for the eyes, which she dons when away from home. “Hijab is my identity. And right now what they’re doing is taking away my identity from me.” She’s one of countless Muslim students in Karnataka who have found themselves thrust into the center of a stormy debate about banning the hijab in schools and the Islamic head coverings’ place in this Hindu-majority but constitutionally secular nation. The issue has become a flashpoint for the battle over the rights of Muslims, who fear they are being shunted aside as a minority in India and see hijab restrictions as a worrying escalation of Hindu nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. On Tuesday, an Indian court upheld the ban, saying the Muslim headscarf is not an essential religious practice of Islam. The hijab is worn by many Muslim women to maintain modesty or as a religious symbol, often seen as not just a bit of clothing but something mandated by their faith. Opponents consider it a symbol of oppression, imposed on women. Hijab supporters deny that and say it has different meanings depending on the individual, including as a proud expression of Muslim identity. The furor began in January in India, where Muslims make up just 14% of the country’s 1.4 billion people but are still numerous enough to make it the second-largest Muslim population of any nation, after Indonesia. Read: India court upholds ban on hijab in schools and colleges Staffers at a government-run junior college in Udupi, a coastal city in Karnataka, began refusing admission to girls who showed up in a hijab, saying they were violating the uniform code. The students protested by camping outside and holding their lessons there, arguing that Muslim students had long been allowed to wear headscarves at school. More schools in the state soon imposed similar bans, prompting demonstrations by hundreds of Muslim women. That led to counterprotests by Hindu students wearing saffron shawls, a color closely associated with that religion and favored by Hindu nationalists. They shouted slogans like “Hail Lord Ram,” a phrase that traditionally was used to celebrate the Hindu deity but has been co-opted by nationalists. At one campus a boy climbed a flagpole and hoisted a saffron flag to cheers from friends. At another a girl in a hijab was met by shouted Hindu slogans from a group of boys; she raised her fist and cried, “Allahu akbar!” — “God is great,” in Arabic. To quell tensions the state, governed by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, shut schools and colleges for three days. It then slapped a statewide ban on the hijab in classes, saying “religious clothing” in government-run schools “disturbs equality, integrity and public law and order.” Some students gave in and attended with their heads uncovered. Others refused and have been barred from school for nearly two months — students like Ayesha Anwar, an 18-year-old in Udupi who has missed exams and is falling behind her peers. “I feel like we are being let down by everyone,” Anwar said while surrounded by friends in a dimly lit cafe, her voice barely a whisper from behind her cloth veil. Six students sued to overturn the state’s ban, now upheld by the court, arguing it violates their rights to education and religious freedom. One of the plaintiffs to the challenge was Aliya Assadi.
A court in a southern Indian state told students on Thursday not to wear any religious clothing until it delivers a verdict on petitions seeking to overturn a ban on hijabs, headscarves used by Muslim women. The court in Karnataka state is considering petitions filed by students challenging a ban on hijabs that some schools have implemented in recent weeks. “We will pass an order. But till the matter is resolved, no student should insist on wearing religious dress,” the Press Trust of India news agency quoted Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi as saying. The court also directed the state to reopen schools and colleges which the chief minister had shut for three days as protests over the ban escalated earlier this week. The issue grabbed headlines last month when a government-run school in Karnataka's Udupi district barred students wearing hijabs from entering classrooms, triggering protests outside the school gate. More schools in the state followed with similar bans, forcing the state's top court to intervene. The uneasy standoff has raised fears among Muslim students who say they are being deprived of their religious rights in the Hindu-majority nation. On Monday, hundreds of students and parents took to the streets to protest the restriction. READ: 58 girls suspended from college in K’taka for wearing Hijab, holding protest The dispute in Karnataka has set off protests elsewhere in India. A number of demonstrators were detained in the capital, New Delhi, on Thursday, and students and activists have also marched in cities including Hyderabad and Kolkata in recent days. It also captured attention in neighboring Muslim-majority Pakistan. “Depriving Muslim girls of an education is a grave violation of fundamental human rights,” its foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, tweeted on Wednesday, calling the situation “absolutely oppressive.” Nobel Peace Prize laureate and education activist Malala Yousafzai also condemned the ban. “Refusing to let girls to go to school in their hijabs is horrifying,” the 24-year-old Pakistani human rights campaigner tweeted. For many Muslim women, the hijab is part of their faith and a way to maintain modesty. It has been a source of controversy for decades in some Western countries, particularly in France, which in 2004 banned them from being worn in public schools. In India, where Muslims make up about 14% of the country’s almost 1.4 billion people, they are not banned or restricted in public places and are a common sight. Some rights activists have voiced concerns that the bans could increase Islamophobia. Violence and hate speech against Muslims have increased under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governing Hindu nationalist party, which also governs Karnataka state.
The Union government on Tuesday described the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) remarks on the ongoing hijab controversy in Karnataka as ‘motivated and misleading,’ adding that the 57-member bloc is being ‘misused by vested interests’ for the latter's anti-India agenda, reports Hindustan Times News. “We have noted yet another motivated and misleading statement from the General Secretariat of the OIC on matters pertaining to India. Issues in India are considered and resolved in accordance with our constitutional framework and mechanisms, as well as democratic ethos and polity,” Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson, Ministry of External Affairs noted in a statement. Read: India, Australia, and Singapore to jointly address marine pollution The ministry further said that the OIC has a ‘communal mindset,’ due to which, it added, the group cannot properly appreciate ‘these realities.’ “OIC continues to be hijacked by vested interests to further their nefarious propaganda against India,” the statement read. On February 14, the OIC's General Secretariat expressed ‘deep concern’ on the hijab controversy, as well as the so-called ‘Dharm Sansad’ event, held in Haridwar in December last year. “The OIC General Secretariat calls upon the international community, especially the #UN mechanisms and Special Procedures of the #HumanRights Council, to take necessary measures in this regard,” it posted on Twitter. Read: India asks its citizens to leave Ukraine “The #OIC General Secretariat further urges once again #India to ensure the safety, security & wellbeing of the #Muslim community while protecting the way of life of its members & to bring the instigators & perpetrators of acts of violence and hate crimes against them to justice,” it said in a subsequent tweet. Previously, India called out the US ambassador for International Religious Freedom, and Pakistan, for meddling into the issue.