Indian Muslims protest against ban on hijab at schools

Indian Muslims protest against ban on hijab at schools

Amid the increasing persecution of minorities in India under the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, large crowds of Muslims took to the streets in southern part of the country on Monday to protest against the ban on hijab at schools.

The stand-off started in the Karnataka state after students at a government-run high school were told not to wear hijab last month. The edict soon spread to at least two other educational institutions in the state.

Sumayya Roushan, president of the Girls Islamic Organisation Karnataka, said at a press conference on Monday, “It's discriminatory in nature and also it's against the rights that are provided under the constitution of India.”

She said the ban violated “a personal choice that the students are entitled to, which doesn't ... harm any other person”.

Social media footage showed hundreds of people gathered on roads and waving Indian flags in at least two towns in Karnataka, the latest in several days of demonstrations held to condemn the bans.

One of the schools has since partially yielded, allowing its female Muslim students to attend class with a hijab but instructing them to sit in separate classrooms, according to local media.

Two other schools that had implemented a hijab ban declared a holiday and were closed on Monday.

Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party governs the Karnataka state and several prominent members have thrown their support behind the ban, which has been criticised by other political leaders.

“By letting students' hijab come in the way of their education, we are robbing the future of the daughters of India,” Rahul Gandhi of the opposition Congress party tweeted last week.

The state's top court is expected to hear petitions on Tuesday and rule on whether to overturn the bans.