News Goes Viral On Social Media, Stirs Debate

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Srinagar: As some students took to social media to give a vent to their feelings, the news spread like wildfire. There was a volcanic reaction with netizens speaking in favor of and against the decision of the school authorities.
From some chat-rooms to posts, there was an unending debate. Kashmir Observer whatsapp groups were buzzing non stop for the entire day.
”Decent dressing’, is a subjective term. But even keeping the cultural sensitivities of Kashmir in view, there are many other decent dresses that women can wear. Abaya is not the only decent dress around”, wrote Tariq Jameel on facebook.
“For me it is comparing two dresses, which is quite fair.- one our own cultural identity, the other a foreign import. I wish we were more sensitive to our own cultural identity than a borrowed identity, from people, who consider us lowly Muslims” he wrote adding, “I am curious to know how many Kashmiris will feel outraged if a female teacher, wearing a Pheran is given the choice of either not wearing a Pheran or leaving the job?
“Wait! When you have so much regard and respect for your cultural identity, why are you non serious about the religious identity? Our women wear it not because the Arabs do but they consider it as an obligation, a religious trademark. Let they go with it, why impose restrictions?”, replied Nadeem Gul.
Tariq Jameel reacted insisting: “Abaya is not our religious identity. It is a new construct, an argument that has been forced on our women. You mean Muslim women who don’t wear an Abaya are not following Islam? I have no problem a Muslim woman wearing an Abaya, but for God’s sake, don’t make it a symbol of Islam, an obligation, something that every Muslim woman needs to wear.”
Ali Khan Purig’pa added another facet to the debate. “Abaya is not an Islamic dress dears. There is nothing like Islamic dress. Islam only advocates to cover your hair and skin by a dress which is not revealing and vulgar. But if the school authorities object any dress they should have a solid reason and not out of religious prejudice,” he said.
“I wonder how many Jamaat run schools will allow female teachers sleeveless dresses, that is, if they employ female teachers in the first place. This is not about freedom of choice, but about the freedom of the school management to frame their rules,” Tariq Jameel added.
He equated the hate reaction with bias. “So there goes your ‘freedom of choice’ argument, right outta the window, When it comes to Jam’at schools, there is no such thing as freedom of choice, but DPS and other such schools need to always provide that freedom of choice, lest our ever ready to be hurt sensibilities will force us to make weird arguments,” he said.
Imran Gazi was aghast: “Your argument is Skewed: Jam’mat Schools are Islamic in nature and character; Just like Shishu Mandir /Vidya Bharati of RSS are based on Hindutva ideology; they would reflect the respective cultural character. DPS is a school secular in character; the dress of teachers has to be decent ;they must explain why not Abaya is allowed if Sari is allowed.”
Columnist Gowhar Geelani said: “The problem is with jumping to conclusions without analysing objective facts. There are many schools like Jamiat ul Banat where wearing burqa & abaya is made mandatory, isn’t that a problem too? We shouldn’t invoke religion here. Different schools are run by different set of rules and when a teacher signs contract she/he accepts rules too. But if a Sikh for instance is allowed to teach with a turban on, you have to see whether you can ban a teacher from wearing Abaya? Even before that, we have to investigate what the real matter is. No one should hurl invective or abuse to make a point.”
On KO Whatsapp Group Chat,  Journalist Reyaz Masroor had a curious plea. “At a time when the Kashmir CM wears Abaya and the opposition leader wears a khan suit …..this is something that merits attention,” he said.
Another journalist Majid Hyderi posted that such acts were “direct interference with right to freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Constitution of India.” “Kashmir is not France where Hijab is banned, here Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti ensures to wear her iconic headgear, so why create issue over Abaya?”
Former bureaucrats, Farooq RenzuShah and Khurshid Naqeeb were all fire over the issue. Naqeeb said demand should not only be the recall of the sacked teacher but sacking of the principal.
For Ashish Koul there should be no coercion on religious issues. “It’s the matter of faith whether it’s Rome or any part of the world if there are some tenets laid down by our religion or culture then it’s a fundamental duty of everyone to respect and adhere to the norms. In a civilised society there should be no coercion and dereliction to follow the norms is sin beyond bounds,” he wrote.
Some netizens, however, insisted that religion should not be dragged into such issues of “professional discipline.” “This is the right of the school to allow any kind of uniform or dress code. Why mix professional discipline with religion?” asked Gowhar Ali, a businessman, on his social media account.
The debate was going on when this report was being filed.

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