The US says the hijab ban in Karnataka violates religious freedom

The US Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF) announced on Friday that the hijab ban “violates religious freedom and stigmatizes and marginalizes women and girls” in response to the continuing Hijab controversy in Karnataka. “Religious freedom includes the ability to choose one’s religious apparel,” stated U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for IRF Rashad Hussain in a tweet, adding that Karnataka should not regulate the permissibility of religious wear.

Karnataka High Court to hear on Hijab Ban

The Karnataka High Court issued an interim order Wednesday prohibiting students from wearing saffron shawls, hijabs, religious flags, or similar items in class. The three-judge bench had said that “whether the wearing of hijab in the classroom is a part of essential religious practice of Islam in light of constitutional safeguards, needs to be examined further.”

On February 8, 2022, the State administration announced the closure of educational institutions due to a law-and-order issue. Karnataka’s high schools will resume on February 14, with institutions under the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Collegiate and Technical Education reopening on February 17.

The Ambassador’s statement came only hours after Union Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Melbourne for the fourth Quad ministerial conference. The US government’s Office of International Religious Freedom monitors “religiously motivated abuses, harassment, and discrimination worldwide.”

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