I’m Fathima Fazeela, I am 16 years old and a student of St Agnes PU College (in Mangaluru). This year, when I went to the college for my second year (II PU) admission, I was denied admission because I wear a hijab.
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They denied me admission without providing me with any official letter. I asked for it several times, I even went to the college for three days successively for that letter but they never gave it to me. In fact, they said they would issue a Transfer Certificate and not provide the official letter (which mentions the reason for denying admission).
So, I wrote a letter to the DC, the Commissioner’s office, and the DGPI office of Dakshina Kannada. In the letter I had mentioned that I was denied admission just because of my hijab. I also informed them, how in the past, I had received many warnings regarding my hijab. Frequent warnings distracted me from my studies because they kept asking me to remove my hijab. It was very disturbing for me because all the time that’s all they told me.
When we came for admission in my first year, they never mentioned anything about my headscarf. After a few weeks of classes, the management asked me to remove my hijab. I denied, I told them I cannot continue without my headscarf. For the next few months, they would constantly come to my class and whenever I would walk along the corridors, they would look at me, which made me very uncomfortable. This is not the teachers but the management, the principal, the vice-principal and the sisters.
Like last year, this year too I went for admission.
The college had sent a message saying “admissions will be held now” around 3-4 April. When I went for admission, they directly told me, “you cannot enter the college, if you continue to wear your hijab”, but they were not ready to give a written letter.
But all I want is to continue going to college, wearing my hijab. That’s what I want. In case they don’t enroll me, I will have to go to another college. I have to continue my studies, I can’t stop just because they denied me admission.
I know many students who really want to continue wearing hijabs, but they are afraid of the kind of a situation I am in. Just see how difficult it is for me to get admission because I wear a hijab. They are afraid that they will do the same to them. They are scared and because of that they have no inhibition in removing their hijab.
I am the only one who wears the hijab inside the classroom at present.
Denying Me Freedom of Religion
Their demand is like telling me to keep a part of my body away from myself. Since my childhood I have been wearing the hijab, and suddenly if someone asks me to remove it, it’s not possible for me to acquiesce.
The Constitution has given me the freedom to practise my religion, and the college is denying me that right by objecting to my hijab.
When I submitted the letter, they (district administration) said they would look into the matter and would help me in whatever way possible. When I went to the DGPI’s office, the response was reassuring, and they said that the college would not have to give me a TC and I could continue studying there. It was the same response I received from the DC and the Commissioner.
My Right to Study
They can perhaps hinder my admission but they cannot deny me a TC. They won’t let me study in their college and won’t allow me to opt for another college – how is that fair? Are they denying me my educational rights too?
I might have to take legal recourse to address the problem.
I will only accept the TC if they mention the reason why I am not being allowed to continue in this college. They should specify the real reason that I wear the hijab and that’s why I am not being allowed to continue in the college.
Mentally Distracted for the Last Year
I don’t feel like going to college anymore. I was mentally distracted last year. Everyday it was the same story. I felt very uncomfortable. I even used to cry. Sometimes even when the teacher was in class, I would not pay attention. I was more concerned with the comments directed at me.
Other Symbols of Religious Expression Allowed
They allow students to wear bindis and rakhis on their hands. Some are also allowed to wear the ring or the necklace with the Holy Cross. There are no restrictions for them. But when it comes to the headscarf, they say, everyone should be treated equally and we cannot wear that, because it shows religious inequality. But I don’t see a point there.
“My classmates were comfortable with me wearing a headscarf, they do not have any problems. My lecturers don’t have an issue, nobody has a problem. Only the management has a problem if I wear the hijab.”Fathima Fazeela
Returned From UAE in 2018
For 11 years, I studied in UAE. Since the age of three, I started wearing my hijab in classrooms. There, it was allowed, it’s compulsory for Muslim girls to wear the hijab. The headscarf was part of the uniform there.
(As told to Arpita Raj)
(The Quint has reached out to the college. The copy will be updated if and when we get a response)
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