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India: Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s visit sees scarf-wearing students banished to rear PDF Print E-mail

images/stories/ummid_logo.jpgSaturday August 04, 2012
images/stories/InHijabBan.jpg 'Hijab banned as security measures for APJ Abdul Kalaam'

Narrative of a girl student who was discarded from volunteering during Kalam's visit to Hyderabad on July 30, 2012

By Uzma Tahreem

Today (30th July 2012) A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the former president of India, visited the St. Ann's College for Women in Hyderabad. Girls were ecstatic, elated and budding with excitement, even just to have a glimpse of this remarkable personality. But today my respect for my country and it's leaders have lowered a bit, "A BIT" I say.

I woke up with much difficulty this morning because I had woken up for Suhoor (pre-fast meal) just two hours back. But the excitement made me jump out of my bed and rush to the college for the former President's visit arrangements at the college. I was one of the volunteers in the programme and was going to coordinate the "Interaction session".

Tension, joy and extreme frenzy were the mixed emotions going on through me. I reached the college and practiced the session a few times.

Just as me and my friend were exchanging gags and chatter, one of my teacher comes to me and whispers "Uzma, you might like the idea of removing your scarf".

I was confused.

I asked her, "Why, ma'am?".

She replied, "Security reasons."

An unknown feeling pulled me in. Maybe she recognised that look on my face and she just went.
And then some other teachers came up to convince me into removing my scarf. I apologetically refused each time someone came and asked me to do it.

I was slowly sinking in. When persuaded intensely, I became rigid. Refused, debated my way out of their requests to "cooperate" with the security conditions.

Some of the teachers said, "We had already informed the students about the security conditions. The conditions were, they said, NO BURQAS AND SCARVES ALLOWED.

As the teachers discarded me and my friend from volunteering (and replaced us with other girls), and asked us to sit back amidst the audience, a feeling of extreme pain hit me like a bolt. The image of a secular India blurred in the cloud of my tears. A thousand questions arose, a hundred protests, but I pressed them into silent tears.

You must be thinking now, why would a mere request to remove a scarf hurt someone so much? And why would I show so much of rigidity in keeping it on my head. Here's how.

I, before this day, considered myself as a proud and free citizen of a democratic, socialist, secular and a liberal India. Today my pride has weakened a bit, a little disturbed and shaky.

I question, why would the former President of a secular country, include in his security conditions, the need to remove a harmless piece of cloth, an identity, from a woman?

Burqa and scarf were briefly being mentioned as if they were AK47s and Grenades.

Why? Why would an innocent scarf on a girl's head, be considered as AGAINST somebody's security? I would take this day, as an insult.


At the end of the day, all I know is, many of the girls of my college were deprived of meeting their country's former President because they chose Burqa over his security.

My friend and I were deprived of being a volunteer because we were wearing a scarf.
Isn't this enough to hurt the sentiments of a religion?

All I wanted was, to be allowed to PRACTICE MY RELIGION FREELY AND PROUDLY. Why isn't my commitment to my religion being RESPECTED in my own country?

Today they asked me to compromise with my Hijab for a mere function, tomorrow these people will ask me to compromise with it for someone else's "SECURITY".

My scarf isn't a switch that I turn it on and off according to people's convenience. My identity, my Hijab isn't for the people. It is for myself, for my Lord.

Well, if India boasts to be a secular state, then it's time, people of India start acting secular. Because this isn't secular enough for me.

I never mean to hurt anybody's feelings through this article. It is just plain me, asking plain questions for plain answers. Thank You.
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As received by Uzam Tahreem via e-mail. Image used is for illustration purpose only. Not actual