IMSD supports Muslim Education Society’s circular on face unveiling, opposes its no-no to “modern dress”

Published on: May 6, 2019
Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy (IMSD) applauds Kerala’s Muslim Educational Society (MES) for prohibiting girls from wearing “any dress which covers the face” in any of its 150 educational institutions across the state. However, it opposes the MES’ plan of imposing a particular mode of dress as the only acceptable way for Indian women.


 
A circular issued by the MES state president Fazal Gafoor states: “The MES will not encourage any type of veils on its campus. Managers of each MES institution will have to ensure that girl students do not come to the campus with their faces covered. They are hereby asked to include this as a rule on the campus from academic year 2019-20”.
 
The institutions that MES controls include 10 professional colleges, 18 arts and science colleges, 12 higher secondary and 36 CBSE affiliated schools.  It is noteworthy that the MES circular dated April 19 was issued before the decision of the Sri Lankan government banning face covering in all public places following the recent dastardly bomb blasts by Islamist extremists.
 
The circular further states: “MES, which aims at the social and cultural progress of the Muslim community, insists that students, even while maintaining high standards in curricular and extra-curricular activities, do follow a certain decorum in dress code too... Under these circumstances, dresses that are unacceptable to mainstream society – whether they are modern or religious – cannot be promoted”, the circular says.
 
IMSD shares the views of the MES to the extent that empowerment of Muslim women is the objective. Women covered from head to toe are ill-suited to aspire for civil services, various professions politics, sports, entrepreneurship. However, IMSD totally distances itself from the MES’ no-no to women, even at the higher education levels) attending college in “modern dress” (jeans, T-shirts etc).


Such prohibition imposes its own notions of “Indian-ness” and violates women’s right to choose. We do not accept the idea that India only has one particular national dress for women or men. This goes against the very Idea of India. In fact, IMSD is not even opposed to either the hijab or burkha - just the face veil.
 
We support the ban on the face veil, as it’s essentially a patriarchal imposition and an affront to women. We also support the same in the context of security, as face recognition is a must especially in the times that we live in.
 
IMSD categorically rejects the orthodoxy’s claim that Islam enjoins Muslim women to make themselves “invisible” in the public domain. The Quran merely asks women, and men, to dress modestly. IMSD believes that Muslims who insist otherwise are a major obstacle in the progress of Muslims as a community.

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Javed Anand                                                  Feroze Mithiborwala
Convener, IMSD                                            Co-Convener, IMSD