An Indian court on Tuesday upheld a ban on hijab in class in the state of Karnataka, a ruling which might have a bearing in the rest of the country that has a big Muslim minority.
The ban last month by the southern state sparked protests by some Muslim students and parents, and counter-protests by Hindu students. The dispute has led to criticism that Muslims in the country are being further marginalised.
“We are of the considered opinion that wearing of hijab by Muslim women does not form a part of essential religious practice,” Reuters quoted Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi of the High Court of Karnataka as saying in his judgement.
He said the government had the power to prescribe uniform guidelines, dismissing various petitions challenging the order.
Ahead of the verdict, Karnataka authorities announced closures of schools and colleges and imposed restrictions on public gatherings in some parts of the state to prevent potential trouble.
Last month, Federal Home Minister Amit Shah said he preferred students sticking to school uniforms instead of any religious attire.
Students who had challenged the ban in court had said wearing the hijab was a fundamental right guaranteed under India’s Constitution and an essential practice of Islam. Reuters could not immediately contact the challengers.
Karnataka’s ban had led to protests in some other parts of the country too and drew criticism from the United States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.