By Rhea Mogul, Manveena Suri and Swati Gupta, CNN
Updated 4:52 AM ET, Thu February 10, 2022
(CNN) A burqa-wearing college student has become a symbol of resistance in India’s Karnataka state, where religious tensions are rising over the right to wear religious clothing to school.
Muskan Khan was attempting to hand in a college assignment in the city of Mandya when she was accosted by a group of Hindu men wearing saffron scarves — the color of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — according to video posted to social media.
The men heckle her as she makes her way across the school grounds, demanding she take off her face covering, but instead of complying, Khan shouts back “Allahu Akbar” as she punches her fist in the air.
The confrontation illustrates the religious divide that’s been widening in Karnataka since a group of girls began protesting outside their government-run school in January after they were denied entry in the classroom for wearing a hijab.
The girls petitioned the state’s top court to lift the ban, prompting rival protests from right-wing Hindu students.
On Wednesday the court referred the petition to a larger panel of judges, but no date has been set for hearings.
Activists say the hijab row is yet another example of a broader trend in India — one that has seen a crackdown on India’s minority Muslim population since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP came to power nearly eight years ago.
They say that by denying Muslim women the choice to wear the hijab, the government is denying them their religious freedoms, enshrined in the Indian constitution.
“This is a massive attempt by the BJP to homogenize Indian culture, to make it a Hindu-only state,” said 23-year-old Muslim activist Afreen Fatima, who has been protesting in support of the students in her hometown of Allahabad in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state.
“Muslim women are isolated in India. And the situation is getting worse every day.”
Suggested Reading by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times:
Mother Mary is always with a Hijab in artist’s imagination. How can any open minded Christian be against Hijab? pic.twitter.com/DZuOrGGPFR
— Zia H Shah (@ZiahShah1) December 16, 2015
— Quran & Hadith (@QuranAndHadithh) February 9, 2022