A hijab-clad student was heckled and jeered at by a mob of Hindutva supporters in India's Karnataka state on Tuesday while she retaliated by shouting back “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).
Muskan Khan parked her scooter in the parking of her college in Mandya and was subsequently beset by a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) mob which shouted at her and tried to surround her. Undaunted, she continued walking towards her college building in footage that soon went viral on social media.
“Since I started studying [here], I’ve always worn the burqa and hijab. When I entered class, I removed the burqa … [the] principal has said nothing, outsiders started this,” she told NDTV.
'Shameful': Indian journalists, celebs issue condemnation
The harassment of Muskan drew the ire of some Bollywood celebrities, media personalities, intellectuals and politicians, who condemned the Modi government for taking the country to that low.
“A new video from Karnataka shows a young student in a hijab being chased by 'Jai Shree Ram' (Hail Lord Ram) slogan-shouting men. This is what bigotry does to a nation: divides us on dress, food and religion. When we should be worried about jobs for young, we focus on their dress! Shameful,” said Indian news anchor Rajdeep Sardesai.
“As always, it takes a pack of men to attempt to intimidate a woman. Such frightened, pathetic excuses for human beings. Brandishing their shawls as weapons, cloaking their weakness in cruelty. A sizeable section of a rudderless generation lost to hate,” said Indian filmmaker Pooja Bhatt.
Indian author Vaibhav Vishal lamented what the country had been turned into.
It has been a month since the students of a state-run school in Karnataka's Udupi district started their campaign after they were barred from entering their classrooms while wearing hijab. The story cascaded across the internet, and the students began protesting outside the school gate, reading their lessons.
Instead of pacifying the situation, other schools also started enforcing a ban on the hijab, out of fears of RSS supporters who also simultaneously started shouting pro-Hindutva slogans to worsen the situation.
The state machinery seemed to be helpless before the group. Instead, some ruling party members issued statements to defend the ban on the hijab which encouraged RSS members to provoke the situation.
Having failed to control the situation, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai announced the closure of all schools and colleges in the state for three days as the controversy over students wearing hijab on campus intensified, with violence reported from several districts.
In some areas, Hindu girls wearing saffron shawls appeared in the colleges to protest against their hijab-wearing fellows and defend the ban.
So far, several meetings between the staff, government representatives and the protesting students have failed to resolve the issue. The state’s education minister, BC Nagesh, also refused to lift the ban.
Pakistan slams Modi govt's planned 'ghettoisation of Muslims'
Muskan's incident was condemned by Pakistani politicians as well. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, while addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday, said: "One Muslim girl has exposed India's politics and the treatment [being given] to Muslims."
Federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, meanwhile, lauded Muskan's "courage and her conviction" in face of the "fascist Hindutva brigade".
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said depriving Muslim girls of education was a "grave violation" of fundamental human rights.
"World must realise this is part of Indian state plan of ghettoisation of Muslims," he tweeted.
"Indian society is declining with super speed under unstable leadership," said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry.
Nobel laureate and activist Malala Yousafzai also condemned the incident, saying: "Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying."
She called for Indian authorities to stop the marginalisation of Muslim women.