She is now the face of Islam. History chose this hijab-wearing, veiled Muslim girl to symbolize resistance and self-confidence. Her courage will inspire Muslim girls and boys and everyone else who faces intense opposition for their convictions.
It happened in Karnataka, an Indian state ruled by Hindu nationalists. It happened in a government-run educational institution. She was alone, walking to the college building to submit her assignment. Upper-caste Hindu youths wearing saffron colors surrounded her, howling like wolves while shouting Jay Sri Ram. Many of them were not students. They tried to intimidate and prevent her from entering college.
Walking with dignity and adjusting her Hijab, she spaced towards her destination, occasionally raising her fist with an equally strong voice with Allah o Akbar. She reminded herself that its God, the ultimate protector, was her guardian. No fear in her face and no trembling in her steps, she continued to walk. Her college principal and teachers shielded her, but her determination to face the challenge was defiant.
The young Bibi Muskan became an icon of resistance and bravery in a few seconds. She relived the defiance of the Tiananmen Square man, who tried to stand the advancing tanks of the Chinese power structure bravely. Tiananmen’s resistance was against a regime. Muskan’s defiance is against an ideology of hate that targets Muslims of India and Islam in general. Hijab is an excuse; the purpose of the Hindu nationalist is to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra with no rights to Muslims and minorities. The roots are in Mansumiriti, a sacred upper-caste Hindu book that seeks to reduce humans into enslaved people at the service of whom they believe were born from the head and chest of their deities.
Muslim women in India are the targets of Hindu nationalists who play with their honor. Dignity and lives. Rather than receding into passivity, Muslim girls are now at the forefront of standing up for the constitutional rights of their community and other minorities.
Two years ago, they defied the odds and braved the police onslaught on Jamia University. Wearing hijabs, they forced the Delhi police to retreat from attacking unarmed students. Shaheen Bagh became the most significant world movement of defiance against a regime that sought to deprive Muslims of citizenship rights. In the organized campaign of humiliating Muslim women, through conducting auctions of Muslim women on the internet, they shook the nation through legal routes.
Now in Karnataka, they spearheaded the movement to safeguard women’s constitutional rights by refusing to remove their Hijab in educational institutions. They asserted that women are independent and capable of choosing their destiny. The self-assertion of young Muslim girls challenges the Manusmiriti vision of a submissive, domesticated woman at the mercy of patriarchy.
Muslim women are breaking the barriers in education. From a 6.1 literacy rate in 1901. There are 70 percent literate Muslim women in India. Over 15 percent go for higher secondary and graduate schools. They are relentlessly trying hard to advance in all fields of education.
However, the following factors are responsible for many Muslim girls achieving higher education.
1. Poor economic condition of the parents.
2. Had to look after their young siblings and old, ailing ones.
3. The schools’ teaching and learning procedure are not attractive and practical.
4. Failing to enjoy teacher’s attention due to poor student-teacher ratio.
5. Marriage at an early age.
6. Lack of female teachers in a school.
7. Engaged in wage-earning activities to help their parents.
8. Schools are not available within walking distance and closer to the place of dwelling,
9. Parents are a bit reluctant due to the feeling of insecurity.
Hijab offers protection and dignity to Muslim girls in a society that wants women to Manusmiriti vision. It is this fight young Muslim girls have taken upon them to continue. Through their Hijab, they assert their dignity and resolve. They remind others they will pursue their education on their terms, not as objects but as contributors to social growth. When Bib Muskan raised the slogan Allah o Akbar, she told everyone that she was under God’s protection in her determination to pursue her divinely given right, the right to have education with dignity.