Muslim university students trying to impose burqa on woman lecturer in West Bengal

Shirin Middya is a lecturer at Aliah University, a Islamic institution. The local student union wants her to wear a burqa if she wants to teach even though the university has no dress code. Syed Ali Mutjaba, a journalist and peace activist, warns about the rise of radical Islam in Indian society.

Kolkata (AsiaNews) – Islamic extremism is growing in India, this according to Syed Ali Mujtaba, an Indian journalist and founder of the South Asia Contact Group. He spoke to AsiaNews about a recent incident in which the student union at an Islamic university prevented a woman lecturer from speaking unless she wore a burqa.

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Shirin Middya, 24, was recently hired to teach at Aliah University, West Bengal’s first Islamic university, in Kolkata. Back in second week of April, students told her to wear a burqa; otherwise, they would not allow her to teach. News about the incident surfaced only last week. The university does not have any dress code, and wearing the burqa is not required.

Ms Middya said that she would wear the full-face garment but only of her own free will. Still, she concerned that the “students are forcing us to wear the burqa”.

Syed Ali Mutjaba, writer and peace activist, said that he is concerned about incidents of this sort. The “increasing radicalisation of Indian society is extremely worrisome,” he said.

“In India, this radicalisation is a recent phenomenon. Islam in India is centuries old and there are many varieties of Islam,” he explained. “However, in recent times, groups that promote a radical or militant Islam are trying to grab space and are influencing the youth towards their ideas and beliefs and practices that are supposed to be of a hardliner militant version of Islam. This trend is very disturbing for a multi religious society like India.”

For Ali Mutjaba, “there is an urgent need for inclusive development at two levels, one” based n the notion of “unity in diversity and inter-faith dialogue”, the other on discussions “within the Islamic community itself.”

Indeed, “we have to encourage modern and enlightened Muslims to look at things in their totality, not merely from a religious angle.”

Extremism is not however a Muslim prerogative. “Sadly, this kind of radicalisation is a growing trend in India, even among certain elements among our Hindu brethren.”

Among Muslims, certain elements are “trying to create an exclusive community, one that is different from the rest of society, [. . .] trying to carve a niche for themselves as representatives of the Muslim community.”

In reality in India, “there are so many different varieties of Islam. And the dominant ones have nothing to do with extremism. Regrettably, these [extremist] elements make it appear that either you are with us or with the enemy.”

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