A moment of delight became a moment of depression for the Class 12 topper and her family after she faced vicious trolling for her dress code in Kashmir.
TROUBLED by the ‘toxic trolling’ that followed after she was declared topper of Class 12 exams in Kashmir, Aroosa Parvaiz says the vicious online attack has unsettled her family.
“These comments don’t matter to me but they’ve taken a toll on my parents,” Aroosa told Kashmir Observer.
“Wearing or not wearing Hijab doesn’t define one’s belief in their religion. Maybe, I love Allah more than they (trolls) do. I’m a Muslim by heart not by hijab.”
The online attack started on February 8, when the Jammu & Kashmir State Board of School Education (JKBOSE) announced its annual results for Class 12.
Like past several years, this year too, girls outperformed boys with a 78 percent success rate.
However, immediately after the results were declared and journalists published the topper’s photos and videos, a trolling reared its ugly head in Kashmir’s virtual world.
Amid all the congratulatory messages for Aroosa, several trolls shamed the student for not covering her head with a Hijab besides contrasting her with religious statements.
“This sudden yet brutal trolling against a young female student is something that Kashmir has never witnessed before,” says Iqbal Khan, a teacher from Srinagar.
“This spiteful behavior is a comment on our community. By ruining such a happy moment for this bright girl with their sadistic and nasty comments, these trolls are only weaponizing religion. Which religion teaches them this venomous behavior? Who’re they to judge people? Kashmiris should learn to rise above this habitual moral policing. And those resorting to this cruel conduct, time and again, should be called off.”
Many of these online harassers have also tried to establish an unwarranted link between the Kashmiri topper and the Karnataka girl students fighting for their hijab rights in the state government run schools.
“Hijab is a part of a Muslim woman’s journey of piety but it doesn’t start or end with it,” believes Tooba Punjabi, a doctorate candidate with specialization in Islamic and Gender Studies.
“As Muslims, you must realize that hijab is an empowering practice for women but one that women must be able to reach through faith, education, freedom and not coercion. No one owes us piety. It is everyone’s own journey. If we’ve any stake in the matter, it’s through enlightenment and inspiration.”
Trolling of Kashmiri women, notably, has become a pastime in the online world where anonymity and physical distance has allowed people especially men to harass, abuse, and threaten others with a strong sense of impunity along with death threats flying thick and wild.
Perhaps, that’s why, one of the trolls was so emboldened with the impunity that he had openly called for the beheading of the girl: “Begairat…Pardah nai kia…Eski gardan katt do (Shameless, hasn’t covered…She should be beheaded.”
Driven by this violent script of shutting and silencing women, Aroosa’s case also saw trolls targeting her family members and questioning her upbringing.
“The problem is,” says Sana Hamid, a psychologist based out of Srinagar, “most of these trolls are delusional who tend to impose an ideological supremacy in the society. They tend to pick up soft-targets and made them victims of their toxic views. Those issuing these groundless online fatwas should be strictly dealt with in accordance with the law.”
Clarifying these “groundless online fatwas”, Mufti Azmatullah of Darul Uloom Rahimia, Bandipora told Kashmir Observer that Islam doesn’t allow trolling or issuing fatwa on social media to anyone.
“People have no right to give violent moral lessons to anyone,” Mufti Azmatullah said.
“Islam teaches us to educate others through Dawah. By trolling or criticizing them or their families, you commit a bigger crime.”
But while trolls of all ages including minors questioned the topper’s dress code and family beliefs, Muzeen Ahmad, a sociology researcher from Kashmir University, argues that anything that is forced onto someone is wrong.
“The men who trolled the girl student for not observing hijab are wrong the same way,” he said, “as the men stopping women from observing it in Karnataka.”
However, the latest trolling case of misogynistic nature was ably countered by Kashmir’s conscious citizenry.
“We’ll not have it if our women are discouraged or judged for the choices they make,” argues a netizen. “We must be our women’s loudest cheerleaders!”
Meanwhile, Aroosa says she’s graceful enough to take everything on her chin and move on with her life.
“I know amid all the darkness, there’s still a silver lining,” she says. “And that’s the outpouring support I received. I’m happy that there’re people celebrating my humble feat out there.”
- Auqib Javeed contributed for this report.
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