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Karnataka hijab ban: The state government has told the Supreme Court that the right to wear hijab in school is not a fundamental right.ATN News

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Women who do not wear hijab or women who have been banned from wearing hijab in countries such as Turkey and France, have been told by the Karnataka government that they should not “convert to Islam” for not wearing it. The Supreme Court on Wednesday explained why the practice does not qualify as an Essential Religious Practice (ERP).

“Today there are many sisters and mothers in Islam who, by choice, do not wear the hijab. There are countries like France and Turkey that have banned the wearing of hijab. But in both these situations, when a woman does not wear hijab, she does not become a Muslim,” Karnataka Advocate General Prabuling Navadki told a bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudanshu Thulia.

The bench is hearing appeals against the Karnataka High Court’s order dismissing petitions filed by some Muslim girls in Udupi seeking the right to wear hijab in classrooms.

Navatki said, “There are some tests to understand if it (wearing the hijab) is too obligatory, if it’s something too basic, then you’re going to be a non-Muslim.”

“When we enter an educational institution, students and administrators are governed by the Education Act. It is an absolute law and no question of violation of fundamental rights arises,” Navadki submitted.

He argued, “The right to dress in an educational institution in defiance of school norms is not a fundamental right. The right to wear hijab in school is also not a fundamental right.

Regarding the details of the ban, she said, “We have not imposed restrictions on wearing hijab outside (in classrooms). We don’t ban coming to school without wearing hijab even in school and college vehicles. Even in school campuses there is no ban. Control is only within the classroom”.

Referring to the Shayara Bano case, in which the SC held the practice of triple talaq unconstitutional, he submitted that the Qur’anic reference may be religious, but whether it is necessary, the court should use the tests already laid down.

Navadki said one of the arguments of Muslim appellants is that those who do not follow the Quran’s commands will be held accountable in the Hereafter. “It is very common to say that. The obligation should be given in the text itself,” he said.

Asked by the bench why the government did not urge the high court not to decide whether it was an essential religious practice (ERP), Navadki said the government lawyers were reluctant to interpret the Quran at one point, but the petitioners insisted that it was an ERP, adding, “We are in the apex court to say that these tests are not satisfactory. We only rely on court orders”.

Countering arguments that wearing the hijab is a fundamental right to expression, Navadki said the appellants have not filed any material to establish the claim.

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The court pointed out that if a girl can wear a hijab in a mall, how can she lose that right when she steps into a school campus?

Navadki replied that “there is no such thing as absolute freedom” and that “every freedom can be restricted and restricted in the manner known under the Constitution”.

Explaining the plight of the school administration when the controversy arose, she said, “When it was asserted, it was asserted as militant – we want to wear the hijab as a religious symbol. Then another section of students protested. What should I do as a school principal? My primary concern is running the school; To ensure that there is no animosity, to bring the children together…not to conclude that it is ERPA.


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