Gender-neutral uniforms: Why a Kerala IUML leader has drawn the line

It is known that among the progressive faces of Islamic politics in Kerala, IUML leader and MK MLA Munir came out with An unusually strong statement on Sunday Against a move to introduce gender-neutral uniforms in public schools.

The doctor-turned-politician said such a uniform – pants and shirts for both girls and boys – was a “left-wing tactic to promote religious denial and male dominance”. He was addressing a camp for the IUML student wing, the Muslim Student Union.

However, for political observers, Munir’s statement was a reflection of the tightrope walking that politicians in society have to take on contentious issues – and there are almost no gender-neutral uniforms among them.

In response to Munir’s statement, Kerala’s Minister of Public Education and leader of the communist movement in Kerala said in Sivankote on Monday, “His approach to this issue is outdated and dates back to the 16th century. Times have changed. The Ministry of Education will continue its programs to achieve gender justice.” gender equality and gender awareness.

Last year, a public high school in Kozhikode introduced for the first time a gender-neutral uniform, allowing full-sleeved shirts instead of half-sleeves and head scarfs to be privileged for Muslim girls. Most of the students welcomed it wholeheartedly, despite protests from some Muslim groups.

No Muslim leader objected to Munir’s statement.

Back in 2018, while addressing a meeting of an Islamic group, Kanthapuram A. Un-Islamic and “dangerous to social order”. “A woman can never equal a man. The requirement that men and women sit together is an attack on Islam,” he said.

Musaliyar had drawn criticism from civil society, but not from community organizations and scholars.

In May this year, the influential Kerala Muslim clerical body, Samastha Kerala Jem’iyyathul Ulema, justified a cleric objecting to a girl’s ascension to the podium to receive an award. “We can only operate within the limits of Islamic rules, which are not man-made,” said Samasta chief Mr. Muhammad Jafri Muthukwea Thangal.

The IUML, to which Mounir belongs, is a long-standing ally of Congress. Under BJP pressure to enter the state, IUML faced heavy criticism from within the community for the party’s approach to the congress. A section of the traditional voting bank sees Congress as too weak to stand up to Sangh Parivar. As a result, both the CPM and the radical PFI, who see an opportunity to appeal to frustrated Muslim voters, are trying to work their way toward support for the IUML. This coincides with a tightening of the position within the community on issues of polarization, which prompted the International Association of the International Law Association to also do the same.

Senior MLA Congressmen and opposition leader VD Satheesan seem to support the IUML’s position on the uniform issue, asking why certain dress codes should be imposed on students. “Standard in style. No dress may be imposed by force under the guise of a uniform. How does the introduction of a particular dress contribute to achieving gender justice? “

As supporting Munir, Satisan added: “The leader of the IUML is a very progressive politician. During his tenure as a minister in the United Democratic Front government, Munir was instrumental in introducing a transgender policy in the state, a first in the country.”

Meanwhile, other Muslim groups are also rallying around the issue. Last week, the Kerala-based Islamic Wisdom Organization (WIO), which operates in the cultural and intellectual fields, held a seminar to educate young people about “the dangers of gender neutrality”, including the recent case of two Muslim women from Kerala who won an order from Supreme Court we live together.

WIO State Secretary TK Ashraf claimed that a curriculum revision that proposed eliminating separate seats for boys and girls was an attempt to normalize gender. He warned that gender neutrality had paved the way for “gender confusion” in the West, and that what was required was not gender equality, but gender justice. “Any approach that would affect the family system must be opposed,” he said.

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