Congress slams party MLA's 'hijab protects from rape' remark, he later issues apology

Distancing the party from Karnataka Congress MLA BZ Zameer Ahmed Khan’s remarks, party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that there was no place in modern India for such regressive views.
Karnataka Congress MLA BZ Zameer Ahmed Khan: Congress slams party MLA's 'hijab protects from rape' remark, he later issues apology
Karnataka Congress MLA BZ Zameer Ahmed Khan: Congress slams party MLA's 'hijab protects from rape' remark, he later issues apology
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The Congress on Monday, February 14, rejected remarks made by its MLA in Karnataka that Hijab is an old practice among Muslims to not show the beauty of young girls to others. Party general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said there is no place in modern India for such "regressive views".

The BJP hit out at the Congress alleging that the party MLA in Karnataka has trivialised rape by claiming that those not wearing burqa invite rape. Congress MLA from Chamrajpet BZ Zameer Ahmed Khan said that Hijab among Muslims means 'purdah' and is an age-old practice. "When girls grow up, they are kept in 'purdah' to hide their beauty. Rape rate is the highest in India and it is because women are not in 'purdah'," he said in Karnataka.

"This is not compulsory but for those who don't want to show their beauty to others. Hijab is not new...," he added. Distancing the Congress from the remarks, Surjewala said, adding, "There is no place in modern India and our society for parochial and regressive views on women as expressed by a Congress leader of Karnataka."

He said such dogmatic views are reserved for BJP leaders as seen in the past in outlandish remarks made by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar and others.

"India's women, irrespective of religion or caste, are representative of 'Shakti' from times immemorial. Women have made India proud in every sphere by their grit, independence and determination. Time has come for every such leader to change the conservative mindset," the AICC General Secretary said.

Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar on Monday, February 14, also criticised his party MLA, saying the party neither endorses nor agrees with the views expressed by the legislator. Initially, Khan defended his statement, and said that he has expressed his personal opinion on the issue. "The beauty of women is not supposed to be exposed. No one should set their eyes upon them. Muslim women have been wearing hijab since long ago," he said.

Shivakumar, however, said: "We will ask him not to issue any statements in this regard in future. We condemn those statements." Zameer, however, said he has not said anything for which he has to apologise. "I have stated that hijab should be allowed. I have also said how a helmet (headgear) protects motorists, hijab keeps women safe," he retorted. "I have not made any comments on women getting raped without hijab in the country. If the media is reporting something which I have not said, how can I be responsible?"

However, as pressure mounted on him, the MLA took to Twitter to issue an apology. He said that his statement “was not intended to hurt or disrespect anyone” and expressed regret if it hurt anyone. 

“I believe our ancestors had mandated wearing burqa-hijab as religious practice in order to protect women. My statement was based on this belief and there was no other reason. Clothes are definitely not the reason for rape. There are incidents of rape irrespective of what clothes women wear. The actual reason is the rapist mindset of few men. It is the men who should change their mindset. My opinion is that education is the only thing that protects women. If, for religious reasons, not wearing Hijab prevents them from accessing education, I would want them to first get educated at least by wearing it. They will then be able to protect themselves through education,” he tweeted. 

“There is no stronger weapon than education. Hence I humbly request both the government and the people to not deny them the education just because they want to wear Hijab,” he added.

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