Muslim student approaches apex court on keeping of beard

March 24th, 2009 - 9:47 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 24 (IANS) A Class 10 Muslim student of Madhya Pradesh has moved the Supreme Court questioning his Christian school’s rules against keeping beards, saying it impinges on his religious faith.
Mohammad Salim sought scrapping of the rules against keeping beards in his government-recognised minority institution, the Nirmala Convent Higher Secondary School. A bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran asked the student’s counsel Monday to first find out if the school was government-aided.

The bench sought this information from the petitioner as the apex court in an important ruling earlier on the rights of unaided minority institutions, known as P.A. Inamdar case, has limited the states right in interfering with the school policy on various matters, including on enforcing quota for admission.

Salim came to the apex court challenging a Madhya Pradesh High Court verdict that dismissed his plea against his school’s norms.

Pointing out that keeping a beard is accorded high importance in Islam, Salim said that every Indian is entitled to abide by his religious faith and doctrine and that no one should be prevented from doing so in a secular country.

Salim’s counsel Aftab Ali Khan contended that Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees every Indian the Fundamental Right to practise and profess his religion and follow its doctrines.

Khan contended that the school principal’s act of forcing the student to leave the school for keeping a beard was against “the religious conscience, belief and custom of the student’s family”.

Khan said that when his client’s Sikh colleagues in the school are allowed to keep a beard and sport a turban, the school’s act of expelling a Muslim student for keeping a beard is a clear discrimination and violation of his fundamental right.

Stating that the minority school should be “reasonable and rational”, Khan said his client was being “harassed with some ulterior motive or due to some communal feeling, which is very harmful for society and for the nation as a whole”.

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