Indian Americans hold protests in multiple US cities against hijab ban in Karnataka

Similar protests have been planned across the U.S.

Protesters held placards saying “my body, my choice,” “revoke hijab ban,” “stop telling women what to do”, “hijab is my right,” and “hijab ban in India is apartheid.”

TCN News 

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Washington, DC – Scores of Indian Americans on Saturday held protests at multiple locations across New Jersey, Texas and Florida states of United States against what they called as, “Islamophobic and unconstitutional ban on students wearing hijabs in schools by the Hindu nationalist government in India’s Karnataka state.” 

The protests were held in Orlando, Florida; South Brunswick, Teaneck, and Paramus, New Jersey; as well as Plano, Irving, and Valley Ranch, Texas, according to a statement issued by Alliance to Stop Genocide in India (ASGI), a coalition of Indian American and US-based civil rights organizations and activists.


Hijab is an Arabic term, meaning modesty. In popular language, it means the modest attire of Muslim women, including a headscarf. Many Muslims believe that the hijab is an essential part of the Islamic faith. 

The statement said that similar protests have been planned across the U.S., including in New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, California, and Washington state, over the weekend and the coming week.

In South Brunswick and Hazlet, NJ, nearly 100 people, mostly women, poured out to protest India’s hijab ban. In Old Bridge, NJ, more protesters gathered in front of a local Islamic centre, while protesters in Orlando, FL and Plano, Irving, and Valley Ranch, TX staged protests in front of their respective mosques.

Protesters held placards saying “my body, my choice,” “revoke hijab ban,” “stop telling women what to do”, “hijab is my right,” and “hijab ban in India is apartheid.”

“I firmly believe that it’s my body, my choice. No government has the right to tell a woman how to dress, especially when it comes to education,” said Sabiha Ansari, a protester from South Brunswick. “We stand with our Muslim sisters in Karnataka.”

“It’s my choice, keep your hands off the hijab,” said another South Brunswick protester.

“Islam is my choice, and it’s my right to wear the hijab,” said a group of protesters in Old Bridge, NJ. “We are here to support all the Muslim women who are suffering in India, and we are with them.”

“Hijab is our right, and no one can take away from that,” said Shagufta Khan, another protester from South Brunswick. “I’m from India, I studied in Karnataka, and 20 years ago, no one said anything about not wearing hijab in college… hijab used to be a non-issue in colleges. It’s upsetting to see the rise of Islamophobia [in India].”

Speaking on the rise of anti-Muslim sentiments and Hindu extremism in India, protester Maheen Azam from South Brunswick said, “Karnataka is supposed to be a very peaceful [region]. Hindus and Muslims used to celebrate Diwali and Eid together. Where is this hatred coming from? What happens to our next generation?”

“As Muslim women, it’s our right to do what we want with our bodies and to portray our religion… it’s not anybody’s business to tell us what to wear,” said Mahwish Khan, another South Brunswick protester. “It’s human decency to respect everyone’s religion and values, and no one should have to lower their values and religious beliefs to ‘fit in’ to society.”

“India needs to see that the international community is taking a stand against the hijab ban and blatant Islamophobia in India,” said Minhaj Khan, protest co-organizer in South Brunswick and Hazlet, NJ.

“This is not befitting of the world’s largest democracy. And no, it’s not an ‘internal matter.’ Human rights violations should be the concern of every human on the planet, and that is why we’re protesting the hijab ban – out of love for India. If Hindu students have the right to see their deities displayed in schools, their prayers performed, and their festivals celebrated, then Muslim students have the full right to wear the hijab as well. That is true secularism.”

“[To] the government of India… don’t consider this as a Muslim issue,” said Imam Hamad Chebli, a prominent Muslim leader who heads the Islamic Society of Central Jersey. “This is a human [rights] issue.”

On February 7, over 100 protesters in Houston, Texas also protested against the hijab ban, calling for the end of discriminatory anti-Muslim policies in schools, which first began at a Karnataka government college in December 2021. Since then, Muslim students across Karnataka and other Indian states have faced ongoing harassment from school faculty, groups of radicalized Hindu students, and leaders of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who have accused the students of having a “terrorist mindset” and being part of an “anti-India plot,” and have doxxed some under-aged Muslim girls and their families on Twitter.