Late last year I started wearing a hijab to protest against the communal virus spread against Muslims by the Indian government by promulgating Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. Now the entire world is facing a secular n-coronavirus which makes no distinction between various religions/ regions/ communities/ class. In India religion wise statistics of infected people is not available and that is exactly how it should be. However, there had been a continuous campaign by the Indian government as well as Delhi government to blame the initial increase in COVID-19 cases once the lockdown was imposed on Tablighi Jamaat. Thus attempting to communalize even a secular n-coronavirus!

Just like the communal virus, n-coronavirus is here to stay with us for quite some time. Long term ways and means to stop the spread of virus at the level of an individual are being devised. These need to become a part of our daily lives just like brushing teeth every day.

To achieve this there is a campaign going on by the Indian government against handshakes and to promote ‘Namaste’ as a greeting; as also to wear facemasks in public. Namaste though widely used now in many Asian countries is a Hindu greeting deriving its roots from Sanskrit and Vedas. Namaste understandably should be a preferred mode of greeting these days as social distancing can be maintained without being rude or disrespectful.

When it comes to facemasks however it will be easy for the Muslim community to adapt to it. Many countries in the past have banned full face-covering hijab worn by Muslim women. Ironically life has come a full circle in these countries as face-covering masks are being promoted all over the world to stop n-coronavirus infection. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, U.S.A. has recommended cloth face-covering (e.g. bandana, scarf) to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The adversity humanity is facing could be an opportunity to get rid of the communal virus along with the n-coronavirus. Along with Namaste as a greeting, full face-covering hijab should be promoted as a protection against the virus for both men and women. It is time to universalize hijab and make it gender neutral. It could save the humanity from communal virus, n-coronavirus and who knows may be even patriarchy!

I wear a full face-covering hijab these days whenever I step out of the house.

Shobha Aggarwal is a member of PIL Watch Group and ABVA. Email: pilwatchgroup@gmail.com


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2 Comments

  1. Avatar Candice Goddard says:

    Your article states, “Now the entire world is facing a secular n-coronavirus which makes no distinction between various religions/ regions/ communities/ class.”

    First of all those / should be , but ignoring that typing error, what you said isn’t actually true. In the UK and US there is evidence that the virus does make a distinction between communities and class if by community and class you’re referring to people of similar ethnicity and socio-economic class. In the UK, where I live, the vast majority of the deaths have been non white people and black people for example are 90% more likely to die from covid-19 than their white peers even when all of the external variables like health, living conditions and wealth are taken into consideration. One of the most tragic victims who died here was a 13 year old Muslim boy, whose family couldn’t even attend his funeral as they were also infected.

    You went on to say, ” In India religion wise statistics of infected people is not available and that is exactly how it should be.” So that means that your previous statement isn’t even true in your own mind. If statistics regarding the religion (which is part of ethnicity because religion is a part of culture) then you have no idea if the virus actually does make a distinction within communities.

    It’s quite weird that you would have this attitude, it’s a bit like the homosexuals in South Korea who are protesting that accurate news reports went out which showed that a 29 year old man had infected at least 14 people by visiting several gay bars in Seoul. He could also have infected 2000 other people elsewhere as he walked around infected but the homosexuals are complaining about a potential anti-gay backlash because of accurate homosexual stereotypes. They claim that it’s not helpful to know where an infected person has been and will force them to “out” themselves.

    In my opinion their stance is very much like yours. They’re more concerned with protecting an ideal ( in their case that homosexual sexual activity is not a health hazard, in your case the all encompassing benefits of wearing a hijab) rather than actually helping people in their own community because it’s beneficial to know who has been infected, where they got infected and when and who they might have spread the disease to.

    If as you say the disease doesn’t discriminate regardless of living conditions, habits, likelihood of infection say from working in health, social care, transportation etc then why would it actually matter if statistics include information regarding the religion and even place of worship of any victims? In South Korea one of the first places to get infected and have a lot of casualties was a Christian church and yet I haven’t heard a single Christian anywhere in the world making similar statements to you and the Korean homosexuals. It’s not because Christians don’t get persecuted, I think an honest person would admit that so what’s the difference? It’s about how people think of themselves. You and the homosexuals have confirmation bias towards your own status of victims of prejudice.

    You wrote, “Many countries in the past have banned full face-covering hijab worn by Muslim women. Ironically life has come a full circle in these countries as face-covering masks are being promoted all over the world to stop n-coronavirus infection. ”

    I’ve never had a problem with Muslims wearing hijabs in the UK, It would be nice if all religions felt comfortable wearing their traditional clothes or head coverings (since most religions have had some sort of veil for women) but a hijab is not a medical grade face mask and probably offers absolutely no protection to the virus which can be spread in the air in aerosol sized particles. If a normal hijab could help people, why would doctors in the UK be complaining that their PPE isn’t good enough? Surely they could just get a hijab and wear it and then they could stop threatening to walk out and leave patients here to die. Your article is misleading and could lead to more deaths in your community if people think that a hijab can protect them when they should also have on a medical grade face mask.

    It’s funny how you talk about countries that don’t allow the full hijab but I live in the UK and whilst full face coverings like balaclava and a motorcycle helmet or hood of a monk’s habit as well as full face covering of hijabs aren’t allowed inside certain shopping centres and CCTVed areas, there is no law specific or exclusive to hijabs. So if you’re going to claim that such laws have existed, you should name the countries specifically and list the laws which exclusively refer to Muslims. Otherwise your article is completely misleading and dangerous to your own community. You’re spreading information that isn’t true and the reason why that is a problem is because it actually creates Islamophobia since people who actually hate Muslims can use your incorrect article to prove whatever points they want to make and people on the fringes will believe them because they want to.

    • Avatar Dr. P. S. Sahni says:

      This is a reply to your comment.

      In para 1 after the first two lines you have stated: “First of all those / should be, … true.” Which typing error are you alluding to is not clear. You may re-read your own first two lines.

      The facts in the article are true and scientific. It is true that the virus has affected all communities, classes, religions, regions in about 187 countries till date. What you are referring to is that the incidence is more in some than in others. Shobha never wrote that incidence is same in all communities! You may like to re-read the article. The point made by Shobha was obviously that it affects all communities – which is correct.

      In response to Para 2 of your comment, I may add that if you study the pandemic, countries like Iran where Muslims are in majority have been affected; Italy with lots of Christians has not been spared; India with Hindu majority is affected. It is through scientific study (epidemiology) that a researcher will learn that all communities have got infected. The statement by Shobha viz. “In India ….should be” is made in the context of present times. Christians, Muslims, tribals and Scheduled Castes have been witch-hunted, targeted and lynched on this or that flimsy ground. The Tablighi Jamaat congregation held in mid-March 2020 was used to project that Muslim Community was responsible for the spread of virus in India!! The Delhi Police, the local intelligence and central intelligence agencies were let off the hook for their negligence to let the congregation take off. What followed was sheer police brutality. The political question is this: Can an entire community be blamed for the action of a few? But this is what the corporate press (media) and the political class did.

      Before making the community-wise data public, the safety of all members of all communities should be ensured first. The rule of law should prevail. Apparently you are cut off from lived experience of minorities in India. Read up just the issues of Countercurrents.org over the last 6 years; update yourself, before delving into reading of the author’s mind.

      Your statement: “If statistics … within communities” is wrong English; no further comment on that.

      Your subsequent two paragraphs (Paras 3 & 4) carry the undertone of homophobia though I am sure you have a healthy attitude towards LGBTQIA community. You may need to address your concerns to the gay community in South Korea and engage with them in a debate/dialogue. I find it weird that an attempt is being made to divert the attention from Muslim-bashing in India – which is the only reason why the article was penned. However you may read the AIDS Bhedbhav Virodhi Andolan’s Blog (ABVA blog) for Shobha’s views on LGBTQIA community.

      The benefits of hijab are the same as with any other mask. In fact any face covering like bandana, scarf and even use of gamcha, are said to be as useful in preventing n-coronavirus infection, You should get rid of your disdain – if not, outright phobia – about hijab. I emphasize – a fascist regime is in place; minorities are anyway getting targeted even without the n-coronavirus; why give another pretext for their being at the receiving end?

      Para 5 of your comment says: “If as you say … transportation etc then” but the article doesn’t mention these lines; you are adept at putting words in the author’s mouth. Hallucinating, perhaps? Rest of what you say has been adequately explained in my previous two paragraphs. I’m not repeating my points as I trust your intelligence. Your next paragraph, 6, gives me an uncomfortable feeling that – on second thoughts – you may be harbouring sub-conscious homophobia.

      In reply to your para 7 & 8, I may add that nowhere does the article mention that hijab is to replace PPE for doctors in U.K. Hallucinating again. Hijab is meant for people who would otherwise be asked to wear a mask. In India, women-centric self-help groups are stitching masks at homes. It has become a cottage industry. Such masks are made of cotton/khadi cloth.

      You are again putting words in the mouth of the author; and then building an argument over it.

      Finally with the best of NHS in U.K. why is the country one of the worst affected in Europe? That is the question which needs to be asked of your politicians, doctors and bureaucrats. Comparison with any Asian country would be humbling for the British Government. There could be a lesson or two to be learnt for the rulers in that country.

      Shobha’s article is scientific – your personal views and bias notwithstanding. The article is in conformity with the advice of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, U.S.A.; W.H.O; ICMR; Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. Please find time to go through their advice and guidelines issued from time to time.

      Lastly, I will let the cat out of the bag – you got the identity of the author wrong when you wrote:
      “Otherwise your article is … dangerous to your OWN COMMUNITY.” (emphasis provided)

      Hence the harangue penned by you.