So most of you already know the news. This high school kid Salim kept a beard in a convent school, school authorities didn’t appreciate. The kid sued the school. I don’t know if it was his own idea to go as far as Supreme Court for this mere cause of keeping beard or was it his parents or some religious leader in his neighborhood. It surprises me a bit that a school going kid would fight it all the way to have a beard of all the things. I mean beard, french beard, go-tee, clean shave, short hair, long hair, spiked hair, mohawk cut, hairy chest, waxed chest, hair on your eyebrows and upper lips are all parts of grooming and glamorising yourself I thought.

But what beats me and frustrates me to death is to see the continuous fuss over such non issue from various sections particularly the secular Indian Muslims. There is an outrage against the Supreme Court judgment which according to many, is acceptable in theory but not in spirit.

Indian Muslim community’s anger is seeded in the fact that while out-rightly and very justly rejecting the petitioner’s arguments that he should be allowed to keep a beard against the school’s disciplinary norms, Justice Katju said that we cannot allow beards and burquas because, “We don?t want to have Talibans in the country.”

This uncalled for remark which could have been ignored has been interpreted by everybody as Justice Katju’s attempt to equate Beard and Burqa with Talibanism. I read up a few posts in the blogsphere expressing this anger. Shamnad Basheer, a professor of the National University of Judicial Science, Kolkata, writes on Hard News,

“Given the tenor of the judges’ comment, the possibility of bias against Salim and his community cannot be ruled out. After all, as a cardinal principle of justice known to most legal systems teaches us: Justice must not only be done, but also be seen to be done.? It is critical that the case be reviewed and reheard by another bench. In other words, any review petition filed by Salim’s counsel must be allowed and the case reheard by another bench to determine whether or not the special leave petition in question ought to be admitted.”

I cannot believe this learned man is proposing more of the Court’s valuable time be spent on this non issue. A review petition be allowed for what…so that school going kids are able to grow beard? Never mind the dress code and code of conduct? Since this person is arguing in favour of having a mechanism for censuring judges, I would like to ask him if he will agreed that Judges are only human, if they were not we wouldn’t need to keep a vigil on them, right? To err is to human, so yes, justice Katju’s remark was uncalled for off the cuff and silly. But that does not necessarily mean his decision was wrong or biased. Why are you reading in between the lines.

Mr. Mohib Ahmam writes on Indian Muslims.in

“Prima facie it appears that Justice Katju and the bench over-reached their jurisdiction and some of the comments made by the bench went way beyond the scope of the case. What is good for Sikhs is good for Muslims and other religious denominations as well. At the very minimum if Mohammad Salim’s Sikh classmates are sporting beards as part of their religious traditions then he should be allowed to do the same on that basis. A healthy debate on private institutions right to set rules and regulations is needed. At the same time the courts can’t litigate religion from the bench.”

I cannot stand such arrogant comment against the Courts. In exactly what capacity is this blogger making this statement that the Honble Supreme Court has over reached its jurisdiction. Who does he think he is, how dare he disrespect the Court so much? Criticism is one thing, its most people’s favourite pastime but people should know their limits. Now the Courts would have to learn from this guy what is their jurisdiction?

There’s no point in comparing Sikh students with Muslim students. The decision is only related to a private minority institution’s right to make their own rules and regulations. It is such a simple thing, the word private by defination implies that is is my goddamn territory and I decided how I will regulate it so long as I am not breaking any law of the land.

Javed Ahmad wrote a very sensible article on Indian Express and I will just quote few of his paras:

…A half-hour Google search on mainstream Islamic websites is enough to show there are very divergent views on the beard being an “indispensable part of Islam.”

The next time you run into a Muslim obsessed about the burqa or the beard, ask what happened to the essential teachings of the Prophet: “To seek knowledge (in Islam all knowledge is sacred) is the religious duty of every Muslim man and woman”; “The ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr”; “To obtain knowledge travel to China if necessary”.

Had the self-appointed custodians of Islam honestly spread this simple message of the Prophet instead of peddling a bygone culture and patriarchy as Islam, Muslim women would today have been pushing the frontiers of knowledge and teenager Salim would have concentrated on sharpening his intellect instead of frittering his and the community’s time, money and emotion in search of shallow piety.

We need to learn to keep our religious sentiments at home and not carry them to educational institutions and workplaces. Every insitution has its own set of rules, values, diciplinary conduct etc and if we want to be a part of it we must respect have respect for such regulations. Otherwise there would be no end to such petitions and litigations for every random thing and we would only be walking backwards with such mind sets which puts personal faith and religion before civil laws and allows religion to control every aspect of their life.

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