India hijab verdict: Court upholds ban in Karnataka over religious clashes

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the hijab was not “an essential religious practice in the Islamic faith” and dismissed a series of petitions filed by Muslim students refusing to enter classrooms at several schools and colleges across the state.

The court also ruled that students’ compliance with school uniforms was “reasonably regulated, constitutionally permissible and students could not resist.”

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bombay has appealed for calm after the verdict, which officials fear could provoke religious protests again.

“I urge everyone to follow the High Court order and maintain peace and order,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “Let the children do their education as usual.”

The controversy erupted after students staged a small protest in January Demand to be allowed Inside the classroom wearing Islamic clothing.

Their demonstration provoked competitive protests from right-wing Hindus Saffron scarf – a color widely associated with Hinduism – and a religious Hindu slogan in support of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The controversy was seen as a sign of deep religious tensions in the state. Where Authorities ordered the closure of all high schools and colleges for several days to encourage protests in early February. In Bangalore, the state capital, rallies were banned outside educational institutions for two weeks.

Numerous women from other Indian cities including the capital Delhi, Hyderabad and Kolkata Took to the streets in support of Muslim girls.

State officials supported the ban on the hijab, citing a government decree on religious dress.

Opposition to the hijab spread in India as women refused to say what they should wear

But experts and activists say the hijab line is deeper than the dress code, signifying widespread persecution of India’s minority Muslim population since Modi’s BJP came to power almost eight years ago.

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Karnataka – just 13% of the population is Muslim – is ruled by the BJP, and critics say the state has already passed legislation in favor of Hindus.

Mohammad Tahir, a lawyer representing a group of petitioners in court, told CNN last month that Karnataka was a “land” of Hindutva ideology backed by several right-wing groups seeking to turn India into a land of Hindus.

“We welcome the verdict. However, we still do not know the reason,” Shatabhish Sivanna, one of the women’s lawyers, told CNN on Tuesday. “We will talk to the petitioners and then we will look into what legal path we want to take.”

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