New Delhi,Mumtaz Alam, (IndiaTomorrow): She is barely 18 but seems highly conscious about her choice of attire. Coming from a practising and well-educated Muslim family, Fatima, who secured above 90% marks in both Class X and Class XII, wants to become a doctor, and for this she is going to appear at All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT) on 25th July. But she feels so strongly about her dress that she feels offended by the dress code issued by the Central Board of School Education (CBSE) for the coming AIPMT.
The dress code issued on 9th July asks students not to carry scarf and other items like electronic devices. Scarf is almost an integral part of Islamic Hijab in India and many other countries. But the dress code of CBSE doesn’t stop at scarf. It further asks students to “wear light clothes with half sleeves Shirt/T-Shirt/Kurta.” In another way, it prohibits both scarf and full sleeve kurta – these two generally make up the core of Islamic Hijab. And that’s why Fatima, and maybe many other Muslim girls, could be angry.
“Scarf and full-sleeve kurta are the minimum part of Islamic Hijab. For hijab you should be very particular about what you wear – the point is you should not show up,” says Fatima talking to IndiaTomorrow.net.
She says that without naming Hijab, the CBSE has actually banned Hijab for AIPMT.
“Without naming Hijab, they have actually banned Hijab for AIPMT. If they had mentioned Hijab then people would have become angrier. But they have mentioned these two things. They are doing it at AIPMT now, they may extend it to schools and colleges and maybe to public places,” she says.
She is of the view that the dress code for AIPMT clearly infringes on her right to wear what she wants and also her religious freedom. “Definitely it is our freedom to wear dress of our choice.”
She asks why the CBSE has not barred turban (worn by Sikhs) or will the word scarf cover turban also.
“If Sikhs can wear turban then definitely our scarf is not violating any of their rules. They have not prohibited turbans where one can easily hide Bluetooth devices. If they don’t have any problem with turbans then they should not have any problem with scarf either.”
Fatima passed Class X from St. Joseph’s Convent High School in Patna with 90.4% marks and Class XII from DPS Eldeco in Lucknow with 92.6% marks.
She says she started donning full Hijab from Class X and hasn’t ever faced any problem. “I feel comfortable in Hijab. I haven’t faced any problem in school, market or any other public places.”
She has a history of fighting for Hijab
It is not the first time that she is gearing up for a face-off with the authorities over Hijab. In the last four years, she has successfully won two such fights.
When she was in Class X at Patna’s St. Joseph’s the school authorities issued instruction for a compulsory T-Shirt and skirt. The young Fatima ganged up with like-minded Muslim girl students and went to the principal and strongly fought her case. She asked the authorities to allow them to wear Salwar and Sameez and they ultimately budged in. Again at DPS Lucknow where she got admission in Class XI, she was the only student to attend class in Hijab – and this was possible only after a hard battle with the school authorities.
And this time too, she has written to CBSE to allow her in with Hijab.
I am ready to remove my scarf or Naqab for search
It is not that she does not want to cooperate with the authorities. She says she would like the women security staff to remove her scarf and Hijab and check her thoroughly.
“I would like them to check me fully and remove my scarf for inspection. They may be looking for imposter or devices. But after checking they must allow me to enter with my full hijab. Though I would not like it but it would be ok even if they checked me in the classroom before all students and removed my scarf for search purpose,” says Fatima.
“No one has ever been caught red-handed wearing scarf, so definitely I don’t think scarf should be banned at all.”
Ready to give up AIPMT but not my Hijab
Even in the young age, Fatima seems to have got iron determination. She says if she was not allowed to enter AIPMT centre with Hijab, she would protest and prefer to walk out rather than to appear in half sleeve kurta and without scarf.
“If they didn’t allow me in with Hijab, I will walk out. I won’t give exam without headscarf and with half sleeves kurta,” says she who is not much worried about her career.
“As far as the career is concerned, without Allah’s decision nothing can happen.”
She again demands the authorities to either withdraw the dress code or deploy women security to thoroughly check women in Hijab.
“They can deploy women personnel who can check scarves or anything that they have to check but they should allow us to wear the dress we want to,” she says.
Dress code sounds stupid: Kavita Krishnan
Fatima is getting support from people who are against any dress code. Delhi’s eminent women’s rights activist Kavita Krishnan terms the dress code as stupid and opposes the move of CBSE.
“The dress code sounds stupid. It seems a very bad decision. I oppose this rule. But my reason isn’t because of Muslims being offended, but because it does against women’s right to choose what they will wear,” Kavita told IndiaTomorrow.net.