KASARGOD: C Shukkur, district president of the Kerala Lawyers’ Forum, an association affiliated to the Indian Union Muslim League, was bullied and abused on Facebook for picking apart a photograph of around 100 college girls posing with district police chief K G Simon.
The photograph of the girls, all students of an Arabic college at Uliyathaduka wearing black face veil (niqab), gloves, and burqa, had gone viral on WhatsApp and triggered sarcastic comments. Reposting the photograph on his timeline, Shukkur said, “This photograph tells certain things to us. If only those who have to see get the message, it would have been good for our land. There is only one person in this picture with a face, and that is the district police chief.’ The post was shared more than 40 times and got scores of comments, mostly abusive.
Undeterred, the former public prosecutor posted again, this time explaining himself. “This is not about the right to clothing or about religion. It is social,” he said. And the abusive comments followed him there too.
In his post, Shukkur said, “If things descend to a situation where one believes ‘walking with face covered is religion’, how could a woman become a doctor, an engineer, a government employee, a lawyer or a teacher? Her social life will come to an end.”
He said “this mask” would negate all the efforts of social reformers from K M Seethi Saheb to Shihab Thangal, who gave thrust to women’s education. Shukkur told Express the district police chief should not have posed for such a photograph. However, the officer said he saw nothing wrong in what the students wore. “The photograph was taken during a self-defence programme organised by the Vanita Police for the girls. And what they wore was their uniform,” said Simon. Shukkur said Malayali Muslims were Malayalis first, and Malayalam was the cornerstone of their identity. “When you tried to Saudi-ise, you are killing our identity,” he wrote.
District panchayat member and CPM leader P C Subaida said she too was abused when she commented on Shukkur’s post. “I am not against burkha. I wear it sometimes, but I’m comfortable in churidar too. However, look at the photograph. What are we heading for,” said Subaida.
She said she did not remember her grandmother in such an attire. “It all happened in a span for 20 to 30 years,” she said. “Now, little girls as young as four and five years are sent to madrasas in burqas. If I say something, it will be deliberately construed as a criticism of the religion,” she said.
Shukkur said Muslims should not alienate themselves from a pluralistic society that Kerala is. “History will not forgive those who are using the fear of hell to oust women from public life,” he said.
According to a source close to the college, the girls wore the niqab because the photograph was taken at a public place (an auditorium), where the self-defence programme was held, and not on the campus.