Muslim education group chief receives death threat over ban on face veils

The chief of a Muslim educational group in Kerala, which recently barred its students from covering their faces with any attire on campuses, has received death threat, police said Saturday. Muslim Educational Society (MES) president P A Fazal Gafoor lodged a complaint alleging that an unidentified caller had threatened him with dire consequences if he did not withdraw the circular asking students not to attend classes wearing face-covering attire. A Kozhikode-based progressive group, MES runs 150 educational establishments, including schools and professional colleges. "The threat call was received from an international number, suspected to be from the Gulf.

The decision to bar students from covering their faces has attracted criticism from the Samastha Kerala Jamiyathul Ulema, the religious organisation of Sunni Muslim scholars and clerics. After issuing the circular Friday, Gafoor had stated that the circular on the move was issued on April 17 and had nothing to do with Sri Lanka’s ban on face veils this week following the April 21 blasts.

“Women covering their faces is not Islamic. It is a new culture brought from abroad and has little to do with religion. The practice of covering the face is a cultural invasion. Now, it has become widespread in Kerala,” Gafoor had explained.

Muslim Education Society is a communitarian organisation that claims the legacy of the reformist tradition among Kerala Muslims. It has little sway over theological debates, shaped by Sunni groups who control mosques and madrasas. The MES has held the veil to be a foreign import, but the rejection is likely to be challenged by the clergy."Any attire, which is unacceptable in the public society, cannot be allowed, even if it is in the name of modernity or religious ritual," the circular had said. "Without creating any controversy, the institutions must make sure to implement from 2019-20 academic year that students do not come to the class wearing any attire covering their face," the circular, addressing the secretaries and the principals of the MES institutions, said. Though the dress code mentioned in the circular triggered opposition from orthodox Muslim organisations and scholars, the MES had maintained that covering women's faces was a new trend and had not been in practice in the community in the state earlier. 


In an editorial in party mouthpiece 'Saamana', the Shiv Sena has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to follow Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena's footsteps and ban burqa and other face-covering garments in India, saying it posed a threat to the nation's security. AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi had attacked the Shiv Sena, alleging that the article was trying to create divisions and polarisation in the society.

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