India: Teacher resigns after told to remove face veil

11th Dec 2016
India: Teacher resigns after told to remove face veil

By Abdul Gani

 

GUWAHATI, India (AA): A Muslim teacher who resigned from her job at a school in India’s commercial capital Mumbai last week claimed her decision followed six months of discrimination from school authorities.

“I tried to make them understand about my burqa and hijab, which are part of my religious belief and family tradition but it did not work out and finally I had to submit my resignation,” Shabina Khan Nazneen, who taught IT at the Vivek English High School, told Anadolu Agency.

She had been working at the school for almost three years but said she faced trouble after a new headmistress arrived.

“Earlier there was not trouble but once the headmistress joined the school in June this year, she kept on asking me to remove my burqa and hijab as it’s against the school decorum. Finally on Dec. 5, during the morning assembly session, when I went to conduct the morning prayers and the national anthem, she insisted I remove the burqa and the hijab as well,” Nazneen added.

The school has not yet accepted her resignation but Principal Vikram Pillai was quoted by local media saying they would make a decision next week.

The Indian Express daily newspaper quoted the school saying the incident was a “misunderstanding”.

Adil Khatri, a trustee for Mumbai-based NGO Jai Ho Foundation, which has supported Nazneen, told Anadolu Agency they have written to the state education minister and are awaiting a reply.

“Now, I think the school authorities are under pressure. I hope proper action will be taken against such discrimination,” Khatri said.

Many in India fear there are increasing examples of such discrimination in the country, despite its moniker as the largest democracy in the world.

Human Rights Watch, in its 2016 global human rights reported, noted there had been serious cases of discrimination of intimidation of Muslims and Christians but authorities had not prosecuted those responsible.

Altaf Qadri, an award-winning photojournalist based in New Delhi for the Associated Press, told Anadolu agency he often faces discrimination for having a beard.

“It’s very humiliating when you are treated differently than your other colleagues. In the long run it affects your psychology and the way you are,” he said.

“About three years back, I went to cover an event in Army Cantonment in New Delhi and I was checked several times unlike my fellow journalists. I felt bad and left the place as I was not in a frame of mind to shoot,” Qadri added.

M Reyaz, assistant professor at Kolkata-based Aliah University, said though there is nothing new in such identity-based discrimination, more hardline communal elements had become emboldened since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government came to power in 2014.

“Take the example of the army or police where keeping a beard is considered normal for Sikh but there are instances where Muslims have to fight it out in courts of law. For women, it becomes even more difficult as in the media narrative the veil is seen as subjugating, never mind the fact that hijabi women are now winning medals in the Olympics,” Reyaz said.

[Woman in Niqab. Creative Commons]

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