Mangalore in The Grip of Religious Intolerance – Muslims Not Free Of Blame

Religious Intolerance Growing in Mangalore – a Muslim Woman Student Was Prevented From Wearing a Scarf, Left College

After the formation of BJP government in Karnataka, the placid waters of communal harmony in the state have been disturbed. Communal and divisive elements are growing, particularly in Mangalore, where there was a recent attack on a Kerala MLA’s daughter, when she was on a bus, talking to a Muslim boy.

The latest incident involved a Muslim student, Ayesha, in Managlore college, who was prevented from wearing a head scarf as it was objected to by fellow students. Is this an indication that divisive forces have penetrated the corridors of schools and colleges? That intolerance is growing even among the students is highly reprehensible. Young minds have been poisoned and polluted to the extent that even the girl students did not tolerate a fellow Muslim student wearing a head scarf. It is said Mangalore is becoming more intolerant, these days, thanks to the growing moral policing by Ram Sena men.

BJP is a party with a difference that is clearly seen in Karnataka. The difference this party has brought to the peaceful state of Karnataka is religious intolerance. I do not know whether Karnataka CM Yeduruppa is aware of this incident or not, but the fact remains that society is divided on communal lines at least in Mangalore. This does not augur well for the state of Karnataka. It was not the case when Congress or JD(U) ruled the state. Karanataka BJP has to do a lot of soul searching, if it is serious about consolidating its hold in the state of Karnataka.

Ayesha first walked out of college two weeks ago, when she was asked to remove the head scarf. But she came back – determined to attend college on her terms. But the college did not relent. The college administrators say they are caught in the middle of the dispute. They personally have nothing against her wearing the scarf, but want her to remove it in the classroom to prevent tension.

A student of SVS College, in Bantwal, near Mangalore, Ayesha was angry not because the administration asked her to remove the scarf, but because her fellow students insisted on it. They demanded that if she does not remove the scarf, they will wear saffron shawls.

Ayesha decided to leave the college as she cannot continue in such a charged atmosphere where her own fellow students did not tolerate or respect her religious practice of wearing a head scarf.

“They said if you wear the scarf we will wear saffron shawls,” she says.

The question here is whether Ayesha, the student in the eye of the storm, overreacted. It has been suggested she should have shown some flexiblity by removing the scarf in the class, where no male student was present. Had she removed the head scarf to mingle freely with her fellow students, she would not have faced the embarrassment.

Muslim students should also show some tolerance and respect to others’ sentiments. There was no point in sticking to one’s religious practices, especially in a class where only girl students were present. If she had shown exemplary tolerance that would have earned her respect and friendship from fellow students belonging to the majority community. She might be coming from a strict family where the Muslim girls were asked not to mingle freely with people of other religious faiths or at least keep a distance from them. Perhaps Muslims are also growing intolerant? In a pluralistic society, where we live, one has to adjust to the prevailing conditions, so that everyone in the society would live in an atmosphere of peaceful co-existence. Muslims must also set an example.

Mangalore is in the grip of growing Hindu-Muslim tension and there was a communal clash in Mysore recently over a dispute with a Madrasa. In Mangalore, moral policing is unchallenged where Hindu girls and Muslim boys are not allowed to talk to each other or allowed to sit in a hotel, where they are being asked to leave. There was an attack on a pub where the girls were chased away last year by the Ram Sena men. The growing intolerance on religious grounds is the work of divisive forces. Ayesha’s case cannot be viewed in isolation and something has to be done to educate people on peaceful co-existence and respect for each other religious practices.

The BJP government in Karnataka should take the lead to propagate the ideals of the great men who taught us that India is a land of tolerance. Let us all maintain communal harmony and peace. Jai Hind.