United States government body that monitors and reports on religious freedom throughout the world has slammed Karnataka in the midst of a controversy over Muslim students’ choice to wear hijab on campus.
The ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom (IRF), Rashad Hussain tweeted that “hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom,” referring to the controversy in Karnataka that has prompted the state government to close schools and colleges until the high court concludes its observation into the hijab ban petitions.
The ambassador’s office tweeted, “Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one’s religious attire. The Indian state of Karnataka should not determine the permissibility of religious clothing. Hijab bans in schools violate religious freedom and stigmatize and marginalize women and girls.”
The right to choose one’s religious dress is part of religious freedom. The Indian state of Karnataka should not decide whether religious apparel is permissible. School-based hijab bans violate religious freedom while stigmatising and marginalising women and girls.
The ministerial to Large Religious Freedom, of which Hussain is an ambassador, is part of the United States office of International Religious Freedom, which has previously remarked on religious tensions in India.
The Karnataka High Court will continue hearing petitions challenging the hijab ban. In an interim judgement issued on Friday, the high court stated that no religious apparel, such as shawls or hijab, will be permitted inside educational institutions.
Protests over a hijab ban at one government-run college in northern Karnataka of Udupi began last week and expanded to various other institutions where females wearing hijabs were barred from entering. As saffron scarf-wearing students staged counter-protests, authorities were forced to use tear gas to contain the situation at one campus.
India has yet to reply to Hussain’s views on the Karnataka hijab controversy. United States Senate designated Hussain as Ambassador-at-Large for IRF in December of last year.
He is the IRF’s first Muslim Ambassador-at-Large. He has held many high-level roles in the United States government, including serving as the Obama administration’s special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.