The Bullying Of Aroosa Parvaiz And The Denial Of Choice Over Hijab

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When choice is denied, it can no longer be classified as such. It is an imposition

I am deeply saddened to see how the social media bullies of Kashmir attacked Aroosa Parvaiz, who topped the Class 12 exam of JK Board this year by scoring 99.8 percent in the medical stream. Aroosa was bullied because she was not wearing the hijab in her photograph circulated after her rank was announced. I am highly proud that I am a Muslim, and I am highly proud that I am a Kashmiri. I practice my beautiful religion with great pride.  The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has said that everyone has his own choice of living. This is accepted in our beautiful religion Islam.

I support the girls of Karnataka who are fighting for their right to wear the hijab. It is their right to follow their choice in life. As Muslims, we must realize that the hijab is an empowering practice for women. It is a choice that a woman must make through faith, education, and freedom. But the freedom of choice is not really being provided by the social media bullies. Academic scholar Aroosa Parvaiz has been viciously bullied on social media because she chose not to wear the hijab. What kind of choice is this? Is the choice restricted to only wearing the hijab? Not wearing the hijab is not a choice? When choice is denied, it can no longer be classified as such. It is an imposition.

SOCIAL MEDIA BULLIES HAVE NO RIGHT TO GIVE MORAL LESSONS TO ANYONE

These social media bullies have no right to give moral lessons to anyone. They are threatening Aroosa with violence. Do they think they are practicing our beautiful religion by doing so? No. These social media abusers should be ashamed of their comments on Aroosa. The girl can get depressed by their abusive comments. Who knows a scholar of such high merit may choose to leave Kashmir because of their violent threats.

Nobody has the right to judge anyone in the society in the name of religion. It is a choice of every girl to wear the hijab if she wants to, or not wear it. Kashmiri girls are achieving so much, whether in academics or sports. They are making all of us Kashmiris proud. Should we judge them by their choice to wear or not wear the hijab? Many Kashmiri girls say they are fond of wearing sarees, jeans, skirts etc. But they cannot wear any of these outfits in Kashmir because some loud and aggressive members of our society do not give them the choice. Many progressive Kashmiris give this choice to the girls in their family, but they say – you can wear Western clothing or sarees outside Kashmir. Please avoid it within Kashmir. The situation is not congenial here for you to exercise your choice. These silent, peaceful and harmonious members of our society do not want to confront the social media bullies. They believe in a peaceful approach and a peaceful life. Why is the social code of Kashmir being dictated by rigid and hardcore Islamists? Why do we see this stark difference?

KASHMIR FOLLOWED INCLUSIVE ISLAM AND KASHMIRIYAT, BUT PAKISTAN HAS RIGIDLY INDOCTRINATED US

From our study of our Kashmiri heritage, I know that Kashmir followed inclusive Islam and Kashmiriyat. It is tragic how deeply Pakistan has indoctrinated us. Now Islamic extremists try to rule the Kashmir society with their strict code. In Jammu and Delhi, I have seen many Kashmiri girls. Many of them wear the hijab. Many of them don’t wear the hijab. It is their individual choice, which must be respected. My friends tell me of many Kashmiri girls in Chandigarh, Mumbai, Bangaluru, and other cities within India, or those living abroad. Many wear the hijab. Many don’t wear the hijab. Again it is a matter of personal choice. All individuals must have their own choice. Their rights should not be restricted. But the social media bullies of our society don’t understand this. Regarding the girls of Karnataka, these bullies are shouting that girls should have the choice to wear what they want to. But do the bullies give the same choice to the girls in Kashmir? No. They only use the word ‘choice’ when incidents like Karnataka come up.

SOCIAL MEDIA BULLIES SHOULD ADDRESS CONCERNS LIKE DRUG MENACE

The social media bullies who are so concerned about girls wearing the hijab should take up many other major concerns of our society. Drug consumption by the youth is an alarming issue for the Kashmir society. The growing use of narcotics is the root cause of crimes against women and other crimes in Kashmir. Why aren’t social media bullies concentrating on these issues if they are so concerned about Kashmir? No one has the right to trespass into anyone’s life. Aroosa’s words were a fit answer to social media bullies. “Wearing or not wearing hijab doesn’t define one’s belief in their religion. Maybe I love Allah more than these trolls. I am a Muslim by heart, not by a hijab,” said Aroosa. Social media bullies shall always be there, trying to impose their will through aggression or violence. They shall always try to degrade women or also degrade other men with whom they don’t agree. But it is not the bullies who show the way to the society. It is the achievers who are role models. They show the way to the society.

I stand by the girls of Karnataka who want to wear the hijab. Equally, I stand by Aroosa Parvaiz.

Many Kashmiri Girls Feel Compelled To Wear The Hijab When They Are In The Valley

I was once in a flight from Delhi to Srinagar. In the flight a girl was sitting in the same row as me. She was not wearing the hijab. When the plane was about to land in Srinagar, she took her hijab and wore it. When I discussed this among my friends, they said that they had seen other girls do the same in the flight. When the discussion became larger, many Kashmiris responded that they had seen fellow Kashmiri women take off the hijab before the plane landed in another city. It was evident after the discussion that many Kashmiri girls don’t wear the hijab outside Kashmir. But they choose to wear it while they are in the Valley. Why do we see this difference? Perhaps they feel compelled to wear the hijab when they are in Kashmir.

KASHMIR IS A PROGRESSIVE, DYNAMIC SOCIETY 

PUSHBACK BY CONSERVATIVES AND MODERNISTS IS PART OF SOCIAL CHURN

It is wrong to see Kashmir as a monolith where no personal choice or agency is given to girls. Kashmir has a vibrant life in its own way. Our weddings and family functions are large, jovial spaces where clans come together for fun and frolic. We also have a vibrant restaurant and café culture in Srinagar and in our large towns and popular tourist destinations. Kashmir continues to be a deeply aspirational society despite the current crisis. At the same time, our religious ethos is a deep part of us. In our public spaces, one can see a vast majority of girls who wear the hijab with pride. One can also see a small emerging percentage of women and girls who are choosing not to wear the hijab. Most of them are from among the elite Kashmiris who have studied or worked outside or have been raised outside Kashmir. Earlier, social disapproval for not wearing the hijab was higher. Now, women or girls who do not want to wear the hijab are making themselves visible. The society has space for them. Despite Pakistan’s rigid indoctrination, we Kashmiris retain some of our tolerant and moderate values.

Yes – there is a pushback from the conservatives. Equally, there is a pushback from the modernists who want to practice their religion the way they see right. This social churning is always part of any progressive and dynamic society. So is Kashmir. Progressive and dynamic despite Pakistan’s attempts to tie us to the yoke.

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