Govt should ban hijab in public schools

By adopting a neutral and secular dress code, schools can create a level playing field where students are recognized for their intellect, talents, and character rather than their religious affiliations.

| Updated: 31 January, 2024 5:58 pm IST
TNI Illustration by Aman Rawat

In response to the ongoing hijab controversy in Rajasthan, more state ministers, including the Minister of State for Home, have warned schools and students to adhere to a dress code. The BJP MLA from Hawa Mahal had objected to girls wearing hijab in a government school, prompting discussions about enforcing a ban on head coverings in all government and private schools in the state. Ministers argue that uniform dresses in schools promote discipline, and equality among students, and prevent discrimination based on social, economic, or religious factors.

Indian public schools are meant to be spaces where students from various cultural, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds come together to learn, grow, and understand each other. Allowing religious dress codes can inadvertently create divisions among students, fostering a sense of “us versus them.” In the pursuit of a harmonious and inclusive educational environment, it might be prudent for public schools to adopt a secular uniform policy that transcends religious affiliations.

The hijab, as a religious symbol, is deeply personal and holds immense significance for many individuals. Islamic scholars vary in their opinions whether it is a cultural or religious practice, peculiar to the geography of West Asia, and not indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. In a school setting, where the focus should be on academic pursuits, extracurricular activities, and the development of a shared identity, allowing religious attire might inadvertently lead to polarisation. It is crucial to strike a balance between respecting individual beliefs and fostering an environment that promotes unity.

Religious dress codes can inadvertently contribute to the reinforcement of social and religious stereotypes, making it challenging for students to see beyond superficial differences. By adopting a neutral and secular dress code, schools can create a level playing field where students are recognized for their intellect, talents, and character rather than their religious affiliations.

Moreover, introducing a uniform dress code in public schools aligns with the principles of a secular state, as enshrined in the Indian Constitution. It upholds the idea that public institutions, including schools, should remain equidistant from all religions to ensure fairness and impartiality. While respecting individual rights is essential, it is equally important to consider the broader impact on the school community. A secular dress code encourages a shared identity and emphasises the commonalities among students, fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding.

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