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Hijab controversy: Killing two evils with one stone

You know I’ve just returned after brunch with two of my best friends, one’s name ends with “Khan” and the other ends with “Banerjee”. And my...

You know I’ve just returned after brunch with two of my best friends, one’s name ends with “Khan” and the other ends with “Banerjee”. And my name starts with “Michael” and I am a Christian. Secularism at its best, isn’t it? But yet, I switch on the television and see ugly scenes, I watch a video clip that shows a mob of students wearing saffron shawls following a girl wearing the hijab while chanting “Jai Shri Ram”. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, I see the girl in the clip turn around and chant “Allahu Akbar” as a response. These are 16-17-year-old students participating in the lowest lows of religious fundamentalism and falling prey to religious conservatism while I am finding it difficult to convince my parents to buy me a PS5. It hurts me as a proponent of liberal thought and secularism.

But slowly, I overcame my emotions and looked at the debate rationally and without any bias. And here are the conclusions I come to. Firstly, the right of women to be educated must not be denied because they wear the hijab (or whatever they choose to wear) and I strongly condemn the act of denying education based on what one wears. Having said that, I will not defend the wearing of the hijab as a good idea, or as an idea necessary for somebody’s dignity. I would rather turn the argument of the pseudo feminists who are mistakenly siding with Muslim fundamentalists on this issue and ask them, why are all these arguments about dignity and modesty always about how women dress or conduct themselves and never about men?

If now Saudi Arabia allows women to come out in parks and do yoga in tights, it means a country as conservative as that has understood the evils of religious conservatism. We live in a modern society with its roots in modernism and modernity where progressive thought shall prevail over all other schools of thought. And those societies that fuel fundamentalism pay for it heavily (look at what’s happening in Pakistan). The way to fight rising Hindu conservatism/fundamentalism in India is not by siding with the other fundamentalists (in this case Muslim fundamentalists). If Hindu orthodoxy is bad then so is Islamic orthodoxy. Fundamentalism, orthodoxy, and conservatism of all kinds are bad and should be condemned. Patriarchy and conservatism both come from religion and must be contested simultaneously. This is how you kill two evils (i.e patriarchy and conservatism) with one stone (i.e progressive thought).

- Michael Joachim Ganpat, Student Correspondent, Kolkata

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