Amid a raging debate on prohibiting burqa in the country on grounds of national security, a Muslim educational group in Kerala has banned its students from covering their faces with any attire on the campuses of its institutions.
The Kozhikode-based Muslim Education Society (MES), a progressive group which runs several educational institutions, including professional colleges, issued a circular urging its students not to attend classes wearing any face-covering attire.
While the dress code mentioned in a circular triggered opposition from orthodox Muslim organisations and scholars, the MES maintained that covering women's faces was a new trend and had not been in practice in the community in the state earlier.
In the April 17 circular, MES Institutions president P K Fazal Gafoor said the directive should be implemented from the 2019-20 academic year without triggering any controversy.
"Without creating any controversy, the institutions must make sure to implement from 2019-20 academic year that students do not come to the class wearing any attire covering their face," it said.
Any 'inappropriate' trend in the campuses should be discouraged. "Any attire, which is unacceptable in the public society, cannot be allowed, even if it is in the name of modernity or religious ritual," Gafoor said.
The circular, addressed to the secretaries and the principals of the MES institutions, also asked them to include the dress code directive as a new rule in the college calendar for the new academic year.
Facing demands for withdrawing the move, Gafoor Thursday made it clear that the MES would go ahead with its decision to ban face-covering attire on its campuses.
"Covering the face of women is a new trend..99 per cent women are not covering their face..There had been no such practice in the Kerala society or in the Muslim community here...," he told media persons.
Gafoor said the MES was not ready to implement the dress codes being imposed in the name of "religious fundamentalism".
"We have freedom to ban such attires on our campuses. There is no need to consult with religious outfits for that," the MES president said.
Criticising the MES, Samashtha, an orthodox outfit of Muslim scholars, said the circular was "un-Isalamic" and it should be withdrawn.
"As per the Islamic rules, the body parts of women should not be shown out. The MES has no right to issue a circular banning the attire covering the face of women. Islamic rules should be followed," Umar Faize, a Samastha scholar, said.
The Shiv Sena had on Wednesday welcomed the Sri Lankan government's decision to ban burqa and masks on grounds of national security in the wake of the Easter Sunday terror attacks and asked the Narendra Modi-led regime to follow suit.
In an editorial in party mouthpiece Saamana, the Sena asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to follow Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena's footsteps and ban burqa and other face-covering garments in India, saying it posed a threat to the nation's security.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has attacked the Shiv Sena, alleging that the article was trying to create divisions and polarisation in the society.