Sunday, March 3, 2024

Bihar: Muslim student barred from NET exam for refusing to remove hijab

A Muslim female student in Patna accused the University Grants Commission-National Eligibility Test (UGC-NET) officials of barring her from the exam for refusing to remove her hijab on December 6.

Uzma Yusuf (24) claimed she arrived on time and well-prepared at the examination centre, UNO Private Limited in Bihar’s Patna, following UGC rules. However, teachers and supervisors allegedly denied her the opportunity to take the test, insisting that she remove her hijab.

Yusuf informed Maktoob that she thoroughly reviewed the UGC’s website and her admit card instructions before reaching the test centre.

“Nowhere does it state that observing hijab during the examination is prohibited. However, it did specify that individuals wearing religious markers/attire should arrive early for a comprehensive screening and checking process.”

She mentioned arriving early, undergoing thorough checking by a female guard, and gaining entry to the centre. However, upon entering the exam hall, a male instructor—a senior official from the National Testing Agency—reportedly instructed her to remove the hijab before proceeding to take the test.

“I resisted and requested them to permit me, as there is no such rule mentioned on the website or in the admit card. I even tried to convince the officer, providing an example of how passport offices allow wearing hijab, even with screened ears for biometrics. However, he didn’t listen,” stated Yusuf.

“I faced the dilemma of choosing between my religion and academic setback, and I opted for my faith over potential academic loss,” she said to Maktoob.

Yusuf embraced the Niqab and Hijab from a young age, around the 6th standard, believing that removing the hijab goes against Islamic values and her faith.

She also told Maktoob that the NTA official who demanded her to remove the hijab was a fellow Muslim.

“Surprisingly, the officer enforcing the rule was a Muslim. Despite repeatedly asking for the specific rule prohibiting the hijab during the NET exam, they insisted I leave,” she explained.

She said that she waited outside the centre for over an hour, hoping to be permitted to take the examination, but eventually had to return home.

NET is a test conducted by the University Grants Commission and National Testing Agency to assess eligibility for colleges and universities in appointing Junior Research Fellows and Lecturers.

When questioned about legal action, she responded, “I am not currently in the right frame of mind to plan my next step, but I will certainly reapply for the exam after six months.”

Yusuf believes she was targeted due to her faith, attire, and religious identity, noting, “Nobody was asked to remove the turban.”

She expressed, “I am disheartened because this attempt was wasted due to this Islamophobic and discriminatory practice against Muslims. But I am not intimidated and will reappear.”

She concluded, “I value my modesty and religious belief system more than anything.”

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