Nobel laureate and women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai on Tuesday expressed concern about students in Karnataka not being allowed to attend classes while wearing hijabs.

Sharing a article on Twitter about a 19-year-old student’s experience of being shut out of college because of her hijab, Yousafzai urged Indian leaders to stop the “marginalisation of Muslim women”.

“Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying,” Yousafzai wrote. “Objectification of women persists – for wearing less or more.”

Confrontations between groups of students on the wearing of the hijab began after Muslim girls at the Government Women’s Pre-University College in Udupi were stopped from attending classes if they wore headscarves. In the past few days, protests on this subject have spread to a large number of colleges in Karnataka.

Several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders on Tuesday criticised Yousafzai for her statement, while some others praised her for speaking about Muslim girls being prevented from attending classes.

BJP leader Priti Gandhi said that the Nobel Peace Prize winner had been shot in the head at point-blank range because she “stood up to oppressive [Islamic] practices”.

“Instead of advising your Muslim sisters to let go of regressive beliefs and spread their wings to fly, you want to push them into darkness?” she asked.

Another BJP leader, Manjider Singh Sirsa, accused Yousafzai of tweeting without verifying facts. He asked why she “never spoke on other significant issues like forced conversion of minor Hindu Sikh girls in Pakistan”.

On the other hand, Congress leader Salman Nizami cited Yousafzai’s statement and urged authorities to let girls attend schools in hijabs.

On February 5, the Karnataka government had passed an order that barred students from wearing clothes that “disturb equality, integrity and public order”.

Amid the escalating standoff, the Karnataka government on Tuesday announced that all high schools and colleges in the state will remain shut for three days between February 9 and February 11.

The Karnataka High Court also began hearing petitions challenging the legality of the ban on Tuesday.

Also read:

  1. The Karnataka campaign isn’t just about the hijab – it’s mainly about showing Muslims their place
  2. In Karnataka, as it did in the segregated US South, bigotry will hurt the majority too