What is the mainstream media’s position on the hijab row?

The controversy over whether female students are allowed to wear the hijab in their classrooms isn’t going to die down any time soon. What started in a college in Udupi district, Karnataka is now spreading not only to other districts in the state but also to other parts of the country.

It’s still a . It started on December 28, when six female students from the Women’s Government Pre-University College in Udupi were not allowed to enter their class wearing the hijab. Now, with the arguments currently being heard in the Karnataka High Court, the controversy poses several challenges to the media.

Will the media help calm emotions or fuel the fire already lit? Will this, as seems inevitable in the highly polarized community situation prevailing in Karnataka and elsewhere, increase the blame game, creating false binaries such as Muslims versus Hindus, hijab versus saffron, etc.? ? Or will it report with responsibility and context?

As with many such events, the first news was hardly reported except in the region where it occurred – in this case Udupi. It gradually escalated and caught national media attention once photos of the girls sitting outside the classroom circulated on social media.

Soon politics took over. The Campus Front of India, which is affiliated with the Social Democratic Party of India, spoke on behalf of Muslim students in Udupi. It was only a matter of time before other players entered the fray, primarily the Hindu Jagarana Vedike, who is part of the Sangh Parivar and has been active on a number of incendiary communal issues in Udupi and in neighboring districts of Karnataka. This region has been in the headlines for years with such right-wing groups hunting down Hindu-Muslim couples and raising the bogey of “love jihad”.

When such a problem erupts, independent digital news platforms are often the most reliable for getting more in-depth news and insights. the news minute, which focuses on the south, did some excellent reporting that provided the necessary background and context. He also investigated what led to the almost staged confrontation between the hijab-wearing female students and groups of men, not all students, sporting flashy saffron turbans and scarves outside the gates of MGM College in Udupi.

in the news minute is particularly telling because it establishes that what was attempted to be described as a spontaneous reaction by Hindu students to Muslim students’ demand for their rights was, in fact, staged. Scarves and turbans were made available and then collected after media coverage of the protest.

Karnataka-based newspapers like the Deccan Herald also released the kind of detailed, contextualized reports that helped explain why and how this problem escalated the way it did. , for example, gives a useful chart with a timeline of how the stalemate developed and also how politics took over what was a problem that could have been fixed at the college level.

Another report that highlights the many layers that need to be understood is one of Newslaundry, based on what the students told reporters. The problems are certainly not black or white.

It should also be noted that most media only highlighted part of February 9, in response to several petitions filed by female students about their right to wear the hijab, which stated:

“Pending consideration of all such petitions, we prohibit all students, regardless of religion or faith, from wearing saffron (Bhagwa) shawls and related scarves, hijabs, religious flags or the like in the classroom, until further notice. orders”

But the next paragraph said this:

“We make it clear that this ordinance is limited to those institutions where college development committees have prescribed student dress code/uniform.”

Between February 9, when the order was issued, and February 16, when the assembly clarified that the High Court’s interim order only applied to pre-university colleges where a uniform was compulsory and no to degree colleges, many colleges decided based on the first part of the ordinance prohibiting all students wearing the hijab from entering the premises.

Except on a few occasions when reporters questioned university directors on why they prevented women wearing the hijab from entering university premises, no one in the media intervened. Instead, we have seen videos in the media, and especially on social media, of college students being forced to remove their hijab before entering college premises.

Worse still, some establishments have even insisted on having their abayas removed in full view of the media and the police at the door of the establishment. Any media house that bothered to read the original order would have read that last paragraph, which specifies who the order applies to.

We in the media must also think about the price these underage girls have paid for the intrusive media attention. There’s one in particular from an alleged journalist who pursues a young schoolgirl while school authorities do nothing to stop her.

Some of the girls chose to speak to the media, such as , a second-year BCom student from a college in Mandya, who was seen walking boldly towards her college after parking her scooter despite the gang of men wearing saffron scarves who teased her. But they too had to pay a price. For example, shortly after Muskan spoke to the media, according to , several fake accounts were created in his name. This is the kind of harassment that so many young Muslim women have faced on social media lately.

In addition to inadequate reporting on this issue in the mainstream media, there is no shortage of opinion, whether on television, digital platforms or in print.

In the print media, numerous opinion pieces appeared giving various points of view. Whether it’s a columnist making the rather predictable connection between “jihadi” and the hijab, or a more nuanced comment suggesting it was also a matter of choice, it’s that there are no clear “pros” and “cons”, no. binary that the media loves to project.

Of the many items, these two are worth checking out. Written by Muslim women, they present different points of view and illustrate the many layers that need to be understood.

Ghazala Wahab, journalist and author of Born Muslim: Some Truths About Islam in Indiaargue in Mint Lounge that “the problem is no longer the hijab. What started as a small college disciplinary issue has turned into a political battle in which colleges are fronts and young girls are pawns. Someone clairvoyant in the right-wing universe set a trap to push Muslims further to the margins, and Muslim organizations entered in, not realizing that they would end up harming the weakest among them.

On the other side, Shayma S, a researcher at Jawaharlal Nehru University, has a different view when she Indian Express:

“The urge to save Muslim women, often Muslim men, who are portrayed as oppressive and violently orthodox, is dominant in Hindutva discourse. But Muslim women entering higher education and speaking for themselves are a double threat; impossible to “rescue” and difficult to silence. So maybe it’s not about hijab, or public order. Perhaps it is the growing concern about Muslims and other minorities in the public sphere, who are struggling to access educational institutions and jobs.

Unfortunately, in an age of short attention spans, where for most people news and opinion has been reduced to a few words on social media, such an articulation is read by very few, those who are really looking for answers, some kind of common ground. between the extremes.

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