Kerala’s Muslim Educational Society Bans Students From Wearing Face Veils In Its Educational Institutions Across India
Kerala’s Muslim Educational Society has issued a circular banning ‘any dress that covers the face’ for female students in its institutions across the country. However, the circular does not specifically mention the word “Niqab” (religious veils used by Muslim women to cover the face).
According to the circular, MES President PA Fazal Gafoor states, “The Muslim Educational Society which aims at the social and cultural progress of the Muslim community urges that the students, even while maintaining high standards in curricular and extra-curricular activities, adhere to certain decorum in the dress code too. We should curb all undesirable practices on the campuses.”
The circular further added, “In this context, we cannot permit any clothing that is not acceptable in the general society, may it be in the name of modernisation or religion. Hence, to avoid controversy, from the academic year 2019-20, it is to be ensured that female students will not come to class wearing clothing that covers the face,” reports The Quint.
The circular which was issued on April 17 said that the new rule will be implemented from the 2019-20 academic year.
Various Muslim Organisations Opposed The Circular
After the circular got released by MES, many Muslim organizations came out to oppose it. Sathar Panthaloor, state general secretary of Samastha Kerala Sunni Students Federation opposed the ban saying that no one can stop a woman at institutions run by MES if she decides to wear a dress that covers her face. According to him, the practice of women covering their faces exists in many parts of the world.
Sayyid Muhammad Jifri Muthukkoya Thangal, the president of a religious organization, Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama while opposing the circular said that the MES has no right to interfere in religious practices. According to him, MES is not an organization, entitled to make these kind of statements.
The Quint reports that not only Muslim organizations, but some students of the institutions under MES also opposed the move, thinking it is a matter of choice. One of the last year students at MES Medical College in Malappuram said that she does not wear a Niqab but she still opposes the move. She thinks that the management should stay out of personal and religious freedom.
According to The News Minute, in 2014, Gafoor had stoked another controversy by saying that Niqab was un-Islamic and a western import and that if “Niqab” is worn continuously, it can cause Vitamin D deficiency in Muslim women. Gafoor had said, “This is not Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. This is India where we have freedom of speech and I have all the right to speak against this custom. We might differ in views on various matters, but we do have the freedom to express our opinion. Covering of face cannot be considered as Islamic. Nowhere in Islam is it stated that faces should be covered.”
The Muslim Educational Society
The Muslim Educational Society is a non-governmental organization founded by Dr PA Abdul Gafoor in 1964. It has 150 educational institutions under its control which include 10 professional colleges, 18 arts and science colleges, 12 higher secondary schools and 36 CBSE schools. It has around one lakh students on its rolls, as reported by Business Today.