World boxing champion Nikhat Zareen has sent a message of support to Indian Muslims wishing to don hijab, following controversy surrounding the Islamic attire’s ban in Karnataka’s educational institutions.
“I don’t have any problem with them wearing hijabs. After all, it’s their own choice. I am okay with that,” Zareen, a Muslim herself, was quoted as saying by media, NDTV reported.
“It is totally their own choice. I can’t comment on their choices. I have my own choice, I like to wear such clothes and I don’t mind wearing such clothes. My family doesn’t mind me wearing such clothes. So, I don’t care what people say about me,” she said.
Earlier this month, Zareen made history by winning the gold medal in IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships and became the 5th Indian to make this achievement.
Her comments come amidst controversy surrounding the hijab after the southern state of Karnataka banned hijab.
Muslim students in Karnataka have been protesting the ban on hijab in educational institutions, saying the Islamophobic move of the Karnataka government violates their religious freedom guaranteed under India’s constitution.
Critics of the ban say it is another way of marginalizing a community that accounts for about 13% of Hindu-majority India’s 1.35 billion people.
The Karnataka High Court had also upheld the ban in March this year, saying that wearing hijabs was not essential under Islam.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not just a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
Hijab restrictions have surfaced elsewhere, including France, which in 2004 banned them in schools.
But in India, where Muslims make up 14% of the country’s 1.4 billion people, the hijab has historically been neither prohibited nor limited in public spheres.