KASARGOD: The Muslim Educational Society (MES), which issued a circular disallowing veils in its schools and colleges, is facing backlash from its own unit.
In a statement, the Kasargod district unit of MES has asked its president P A Fazal Gafoor to withdraw the circular.
“We do not agree with Dr Gafoor’s views on women wearing veils. He should correct them, and the circular should be withdrawn,” MES district president Dr Khader Mangad, general secretary C Muhammed Kunhi, and treasurer A Hameed said in the statement.
The circular - issued on April 17 and to be implemented from next academic year - was the personal opinion of Dr Gafoor and did not represent the official stance of MES, they said. The Kozhikode-based MES - founded in 1964 by Fazal Gafoor’s father P K Abdul Gafoor - runs 35 colleges and 72 schools and has around 1 lakh students in its institutions.
According to the circular, issued by Fazal Gafoor, students will not be able to wear religious veils that cover their faces on the campuses. “Institution heads and office-bearers of the local management of the institutions should be vigilant... This should be implemented without giving way to controversy,” it said.
The Kasargod district committee of MES said the circular could not be the policy of the organisation because it was not discussed by any committee. The matter was not discussed at the state general council meeting held at MES Engineering College, Kuttippuram, on March 30, or at the executive council meeting held at Perinthalmanna medical college on April 8, it said.
Gafoor was trying to impose his personal views on institutions and he should be cautious in expressing views on religious matters, it said. When contacted, Dr Mangad, the former vice chancellor of Calicut University, said the circular was a direct denial of rights guaranteed by the Constitution. “My differences with Gafoor’s circular are more about denial of individual freedom than religious freedom. It is not about being progressive or regressive,” he said. “I am not a religious fundamentalist,” he said.
Embattled MES gets support from various quarters
Meanwhile, The MES which came under attack from hardline Muslim groups following its decision to ban face veil in all its institutions, has got the firm backing of Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel. Jaleel said it was not the ‘mafta’ (head scarf) that the MES intended to ban from campuses, but the ‘niqab’ (full veil). The Minister said Islam has never insisted that women should cover their face and hands. “It is for the Muslim organisations themselves to introspect if they need to continue with a dress code which has not been prescribed in Islam,” Jaleel said.
However, the Minister also clarified the government did not want to enforce any decision regarding dress code on women. It is for Muslim organisations to reach a consensus on the matter, Jaleel said. Meanwhile, the MES decision has also got the backing of a prominent Mujahid group. Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen (KNM) state president T P Abdullakoya Madani said Islam does not insist on women covering their faces. Terming the ongoing controversy as ‘needless’, Madani said women do not cover their faces while performing Hajj.