A first-of-its-kind fashion show at a college in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, titled ‘Fashion Splash 2023,’ sparked controversy after a group of female Muslim students adorned burqas during their runway presentation.
The event was organized by the Shriram Group of Colleges, and attended by former Bollywood actress Mandakini and TV actor Radhika Gautam.
A video of the show has gone viral on social media, which shows women in colourful burqas confidently walking down the ramp and greeting the audience with ‘adaab’.
Despite the students’ creative intentions, Maulana Mukarram Qasmi, the district convener of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind in Muzaffarnagar, strongly criticized the event, interpreting it as a deliberate attempt to incite and offend the sentiments of the Muslim community.
According to Qasmi, the burqa is not an item for a fashion display, but a mark of dignity and honour for Muslim women. Qasmi demanded a public apology from the college authorities and warned that legal action might be pursued if similar events occur in the future.
He also urged the parents of the students to avoid such evil-minded powers and protect their daughters from such acts. He said the burqa is worn to avoid the looks of men with wrong intentions.
The fashion show featured 13 students from the fashion design course, who displayed a mix of traditional and Western attire. The student group said their primary motive as one of creative expression, intending to represent their distinctive style without causing offense.
Alina, one of the participating students, explained that she wanted to showcase that the burqa could also be fashionable and not just a garment to be worn at home. According to Alina, she couldn’t take part in the kind of fashion show where short dresses are worn, so she wanted to do something for the women of the Muslim community.
Defending the students’ creativity, Manoj Dheeman, the director of the art department at the college, stressed that the intent was to showcase the versatility of fashion, and urged observers not to connect the efforts with religious connotations.
He said that the students were very hardworking and that one of them came up with the idea to do something creative for Muslim women and show that even hijabs can be fashionable.
The controversy comes at a time when the issue of burqa has been debated in various parts of the country, especially in Karnataka, where Muslim bodies have been fighting for the right of women to wear the burqa to educational institutions.