Naz Shah MP asks
Liz Truss to take
steps for protection of
Indian Muslim women

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Labour MP Naz Shah

BRADFORD: Labour Member of Parliament Naz Shah has asked Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs to take appropriate action for what she called to protect Indian Muslim women. “I am writing to you about the growing nature of intolerance and violence being perpetuated towards Muslim women in India”, Naz Shah writes in her letter on 15th February.

Naz Shah writes; “In recent days, in the state of Kharnataka, Muslim girls were denied entry to their schools unless they removed their hijabs. Schools were closed for several days due to fears of widespread violence. Upon schools reopening, Muslim female students have only been allowed entry into their schools after being forced to remove their hijabs.

“One viral incident shows a single brave young Muslim woman being taunted by hundreds of young men in saffron scarves for choosing to wear her hijab. While her act of bravery has inspired many around the globe lauding her as a ‘fearless lioness’, no woman should be taunted by hundreds of men in such a shameful manner for simply choosing what to wear.

“The Hindi nationalists under the BJP are trying to hide their outright Islamophobic and discriminatory policies and practices by suggesting this is an issue of school uniform. However, as many pro-democracy and opposition figures have said, this is a further attack on minority rights in India by the ruling BJP party. In fact, Shashi Taroor, a congress MP, commented on the issue arguing that this was simply an attack on a minority Muslim community as he stated, “…there is no law banning religious forms of dress like a Sikh turban or a crucifix around your neck or a tilak on the forehead…”.

Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs

“An interim decision by the high court has ruled that until it delivers it final verdict, students should not wear religious clothing to class if their college has a prescribed uniform, therefore placing Muslim women in the predicament of having to choose between their identity and faith or their right to an education.

“However, this is not just an issue of the hijab, but a further extension of the regressive and hard-line extremist otherization of Muslims in India by Hindu nationalists linked to the RSS and the ruling BJP party.

“Only a few weeks ago, in the Holocaust Memorial Day debate, I highlighted how the hate speeches in Haridwar and the mounting evidence of intolerance towards Muslims has led Dr. Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch, someone who predicted the Rwandan genocide, to predict that a genocide against Muslims could take place in India. Additionally, in recent days Noam Chomsky has also emphasised the alarming nature to the turn of events in India as he expressed, the “pathology of Islamophobia is taking its most lethal form in India, where the Modi government is systematically dismantling Indian secular democracy”.

“In November 2021 you outlined, women and girls will be at the centre of your foreign policy priorities. You also highlighted, under the UK’s Presidency, G7 countries commitment to get 40 million girls into education. Given the prevailing issue in India, I have no doubt this will be of the upmost importance to you.

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“According to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Article 11 states clothing as a fundamental human right. Article 18 of the UN charter of human rights sets the law for the right to international standards on freedom of religion or belief. Coupled together, it is clear that Muslim women in India are being openly denied their fundamental human rights. More worryingly is the road this sets India upon, where everyday rights of a minority can openly be denied and violence and hatred towards them become normalised.

“We should be clear; this isn’t an attack on a piece of clothing. This is an attack on the hijab, on Muslim women and on the almost 250 million minority Muslims living in India today.

“Therefore, I fear that unless there is an international spotlight or intervention placed on the ongoing situation in India, where Muslim women are at the forefront of the attacks, we could again witness the lynching of Muslims in India similar to, or far worse, than those that took place in Gujrat in 2002.

“I urge you to call upon the Indian high commissioner to the UK urgently and express the UK position of supporting the rights and freedoms of all women. I also urge you to make clear to our foreign partners in India that the UK has a rights-centred trade policy, and that any such trade agreements will be subject to protection of rights and freedoms for all citizens. Lastly, I ask you to make the UK position crystal clear and stand with the many liberal, pro-democracy voices in India in condemning the banning of the Hijab for Muslim women in parts of India.

Concluding the letter, Naz Shah MP said “I look forward to hearing from you on this matter”.