March 30, 2023

US steps into hijab row despite Islamophobia at home – Times of India

WASHINGTON: Notwithstanding its own struggles at home with Islamophobia, the United States stepped into the hijab row in India, with a leading US official saying the government should not determine permissibility of religious clothing.
“Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one’s religious attire. The Indian state of Karnataka should not determine permissibility of religious clothing. Hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom and stigmatize and marginalize women and girls,” Rashad Hussain, the Biden administration’s Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom tweeted on Friday, as the issue inflamed opinion across the world.
Hussain, a former Obama White House aide, is of Indian-origin, his family having emigrated from Bihar; his father, Mohammad Akbar Hussain, was a mining engineer. and his mother Ruqaiya, his older sister Lubna and his younger brother Saad are medical doctors.
Criticism of the developments in Karnataka also came from the Muslim civil rights and advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which said the hijab ban is “just one more example of the mistreatment of Indian Muslims and the Islamophobic actions that nation’s government either carries out, ignores or excuses.”
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.”
The US is not on particularly solid ground with regards to lecturing the world on Islamophobia with numerous and frequent infractions at home, including an uptick in assaults on Sikhs and other minorities, including anti-semitic attacks. The CAIR itself recently filed a complaint with a United States District Court against a Missouri gun range that discriminated against a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.
According to the complaint, Rania Barakat, a hijab wearing Muslim woman, was denied service at the Frontier Justice gun range in Missouri and told she would have to remove it due to a policy at the range that banned headgear with the exception of front-facing baseball caps.
The hijab issue is also a flashpoint in Canada and France. CAIR recently highlighted the case of Fatemeh Anvari, a grade 3 teacher who was told she would no longer be allowed to teach at Chelsea Elementary School in Quebec because of Bill 21, a state law that bans the wearing of religious symbols by certain government employees in positions of authority while at work.
“Clearly discriminatory laws like Bill 21 deny the religious freedom of Canadian Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Sikhs who wear religious attire as part of their faith. It is unconscionable that a nation claiming to uphold international norms of human rights and freedom allows this unjust law to remain in place,” CAIR said in its critique.

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