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Bangladesh, Please Don’t Compel Hindu Women to Wear The Hijab


Choosing the way that one dresses is a pivotal human right.

 

For any woman, choosing the way that one dresses is a pivotal human right. In both the US and Israel, we pride ourselves in the fact that a woman can dress however she pleases, regardless of whether it is Western, traditional Jewish, traditional Muslim or traditional Hindu clothing. Unfortunately, other parts of the world do not enjoy such basic freedoms. According to Iran Human Rights Monitor, the Iranian regime infamously banned traditional Kurdish dress in public. On the streets of Tehran and other major Iranian cities, many Iranian women are now fighting for the right to have their hair exposed, so that they can have the joyous feeling of having their hair blow in the air, a basic human right that many take for granted in the West. And for this reason, reports that a Hindu woman was compelled to wear a Muslim hijab at an international airport in Bangladesh are quite disturbing, especially after there was a Bangladeshi High Court ruling declaring that no woman can be compelled to veil in Bangladesh.

According to Shipan Kumer Basu, President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, a photo has emerged of a Hindu woman dressed in hijab at Dhaka International Airport. The source related, “The lady is working at Dhaka International Airport. She has a black hijab on her head, a yellow T-sheet and two hand bracelets as well as a red tip on the forehand and some ID card around her neck. From the picture, it is clear that she is a Hindu woman. Hijab is not her dress. She was forced to wear the hijab in order to protect her job.”

“I cannot find the words to express my extreme anger,” Basu added. “However, I doubt whether complaining to the airport authorities will be a remedy. Nevertheless, I am outraged that at a national airport of a country, where thousands of domestic and foreign passengers travel every day, a minority worker is subjected to this. No one should force any Hindu to wear the hijab. Just this one picture is enough to understand the condition of the Hindus in Bangladesh.”

The Bangladesh Minority Council noted that the abduction of young girls from minority communities, the indiscriminate rape of Hindu women and girls, and the forceful conversion of Hindu women is very rampant in Bangladesh. Recently, local sources reported that during the attempted rape of a minority woman in Pirgachha in Rangpur, the assailants cut off the hair of the victim. In addition, the minority woman and her daughter were left out on the road in Birnarayan village, where they were physically tortured, being left with their hands and feet tied up. In another incident, local sources noted that a helpless Hindu widow and her infant daughter were raped by Awami League leaders in Kishorgoni district in Bangladesh. And in still another instance in Mandasaur, local sources noted that a 7-year-old Hindu girl was taken away from school and brutally raped. The rapist also slit the girls’ throat with a wine bottle after raping her.

How many more Hindu women and girls need to be victimized under the present ruling Awami League government before there is a regime change? While the Bangladeshi government tries to pretend that they are moderates, they are actually a huge part of the problem for Basu noted that the authorities hunt down the minority woman or girl if she dares at all to stand up to her oppressors. According to the World Hindu Struggle Committee, in 2013, in another instance, when there was an attempt to rape a minority woman, the woman cut off the penis of the assailant with a sharp blade. In this case, the police launched an investigation against the minority woman and not the attempted rapist.

However, the mass rape of Hindu women and girls in Bangladesh is not the only indignity that they suffer. According to the World Hindu Struggle Committee, Hindu women in Bangladesh are also deprived of the right to make critical choices about how they want to present themselves at work if they want to stay employed. In an atmosphere of massive minority repression, naturally a Hindu woman has no right to say no if her boss wants her to wear hijab to work and this is a major part of the indignities suffered by Hindu women in Bangladesh. While the Bangladeshi government despises Israel, in the Jewish state, Muslim women are granted the right to wear their traditional dress including the niqab and hijab. We are not among the Western countries banning the burqa. This was best demonstrated in a recent video produced by Israeli Arab activist Sara Zoabi, who documented how numerous Israelis responded to her walking down the street wearing a niqab and how everyone treated her respectively. Nevertheless, Bangladesh and many other Muslim countries governments still have a negative perception of Israel in spite of this.

However, many Muslims also criticize various countries in Europe for banning the burka and hijab. Erdogan is a perfect example of this. According to the Independent, he referred to an EU ruling on whether employers can bar the hijab as a clash between Islam and Christianity. His foreign minister went further, warning that a holy war can begin soon. However, Mr. Erdogan and his government, who are known to be critical of Israel who respects the rights of Muslim women to wear hijab, are very much silent when a Bangladeshi Hindu woman is forced to wear the hijab, which demonstrates how little they care about the right of women to make their own choices regarding how they wish to dress and live their lives. It also demonstrates the increasingly good ties between Erdogan’s and Sheikh Hasina’s government. But nevertheless, Erdogan’s silence as Hindu women are raped and tortured merely for being Hindus highlights how much minority rights means to him. While Erdogan’s government often condemns the West for engaging in Islamophobia, his government does not say anything as the Islamic world continues to persecute countless minority religious groups Hindus among them. It is time for this charade to come to an end and for Hindu women to receive the dignity that they deserve as women.

 

Author

Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is the President of the Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights in Middle East (under formation) and is a political analyst at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. She is also a fellow at the Haym Salomon Center, a news and public policy group. For over 6 years, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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