he Muslim Education Society (MES), the largest Muslim educational organisation, had in 2019 banned hijab, purdah and niqab in its colleges and schools in Kerala. Announcing the decision, Fazal Gafoor, the president of the Society, said hijab, purdah and niqab are part of Arabian cultural invasion and not part of Islam.
The decision of the MES has not gone down well with a key Sunni religious association, though it received huge support on the social media.
The MES stands for the empowerment of women through education, employment and public life. We believe that the practice of face veiling, which is a recent phenomenon in Kerala, is anti-woman. It has nothing to do with Islam
Dr Fazal Gafoor
Dr. Gafoor in a circular dated April 17, 2019 had instructed heads of the 100-odd institutions run by the MES to disallow students from wearing face-covering religious costumes. In the missive he had quoted a December 4, 2018 Kerala High Court ruling that dismissed a writ petition by a Muslim schoolgirl filed against a Christian school’s decision that disallowed her from wearing a headscarf, The Hindu had reported then.
“The MES stands for the empowerment of women through education, employment and public life. We believe that the practice of face veiling, which is a recent phenomenon in Kerala, is anti-woman. It has nothing to do with Islam,” Dr Gafoor had told The Hindu. (https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/mes-curbs-on-face-veiling-draw-the-wrath-of-orthodox-groups/article27016437.ece)
He noted that the purdah (full-body veil), the hijab (head-covering scarf, usually black, which also masks a part of the face) and the niqab (which fully covers the face, barring the eyes) were unheard of in Kerala until about a quarter century ago.
“These garments are not part of the Kerala Muslims’ cultural practices. These Arabian garments are being imposed on the community in the name of religious practices. In fact, they are part of the Arabian cultural invasion and not part of Islam.” These foreign attire often alienated Muslim women in the mainstream society, he noted.