On Tuesday, the Indian Supreme Court upheld a Karnataka state ban on Muslim women wearing hijabs in government schools. The court ruled that the ban is not a violation of the right to freedom of religion and said it was necessary to maintain “the secular nature of the school.”
The decision is a victory for conservative Hindu groups in India, who have been pushing for a nationwide ban on the hijab in schools. Muslims make up 14 percent of India’s population, and Hindus make up 79 percent.
The Karnataka state government had imposed the ban in March, saying that hijabs could be used to hide weapons or other objects. Muslim groups challenged the ban in court, arguing that it violated their right to freedom of religion.
The Supreme Court’s decision is likely to fuel the debate over the role of Islam in India. Hindu groups have been increasingly vocal in their opposition to what they see as the growing influence of Islam in the country.
The Indian government has also been accused of trying to marginalize Muslims. In December, the government announced plans to implement a mandatory national register of citizens, which could lead to the exclusion of millions of Muslims who cannot prove their Indian citizenship.
The Supreme Court’s decision on Tuesday is a setback for Muslim women in India who are fighting for their right to wear the hijab. But it is also a reminder that the battle for religious freedom in India is far from over.