Sanjana, Tehalka 1 October 2009
The ban on Muslim students wearing burkas and head scarves has spread to Christian missionary colleges as well. Dr. (Sr.) Prem D’Souza told TEHELKA that while they respect all religions and faiths, they couldn’t accept headscarves as an expression of faith or as a religious choice for Muslim women.
Since March 2009, there have been six incidents of colleges in Dakshin Kannada district banning headscarves and burkas – a number dismissed as insignificant by several people including ABVP student representative Shailesh Shetty. Shetty, the outgoing president of the student union at University College, Mangalore, claimed that in the next month every single college in the district would follow the same rule. “This is a programme that we have taken seriously. Any union that has AVBP representation will make sure that it will be an issue for the college authorities to address. Why should Muslims be allowed to express their identity? They should remember which country they are living in,” said Shetty, deadpan. If Shetty’s claims are anywhere close to the truth, the road ahead promises to be hard for Muslim women in the district’s colleges. The alternative — one that comes with the promise of further marginalisation — is to shift to colleges that are either run by Muslim educational trusts or ones that specialise in Islamic studies. Both spell disaster, says Hasnath Mansur, the former member of the Karnataka State Minorities Commission and principal of Abbas Khan college for women. “Why should women sacrifice education for what is a minor point? As long as they keep their heads covered — even with dupattas — they will comply with religious and cultural customs.”