AR Rahman Tweets ‘Freedom to Choose’ In Response to Controversy over Daughter Khatija Wearing Burka
AR Rahman and Khatija (Photo Credits: YouTube screengrab| Viral Bollywood)

Maestro AR Rahman responded to criticisms over daughter Khatija wearing a niqaab at the Slumdog Millionaire 10th anniversary celebrations. Khatija had donned a niqaab, covering her body in its entirety, save for the eyes. Her conservative appearance was met with criticism with Rahman himself being called out for “forcing” his daughters to dress modestly. Several people on the internet expressed their shock at seeing Khatija dressed so conservatively, especially since Rahman is an internationally-acclaimed musician with a diverse musical repertoire. Some also accused him of forcing his daughter to dress in a niqaab. In reply, Rahman responded with a photograph of his daughter and wife with Nita Ambani with the hashtag #freedomtochoose.

Here's the tweet:

Some were still not convinced by Rahman's response and continued to troll him.

Here are the responses:

In the photo, Khatija is seen with her sister Raheema and mother Sairaa. Both Raheema and Sairaa are dressed in Indian attire without the niqaab. Sairaa merely has a dupatta covering her head. But Khatija is seen dressed in a burka with only her eyes revealed. The accompanying hashtag in the tweet #freedomtochoose implied that Khatija had chosen to dress conservatively while the other women in the house didn’t. Why women wear hijab.

Khatija also clarified that she wasn’t forced to wear the veil and had done so out of pure volition. "The veil has been my choice with complete acceptance and honour. I'm a sane mature adult who knows to make my choices in life," she has said in her Instagram post. Theme and Importance of The Day Dedicated to Veil Worn By Muslim Women.

The veil in Islam has been a controversial topic in feminism. The burkha, hijab and niqaab have been considered instruments of female oppression, by which patriarchy polices women’s bodies. But the discussion is highly polarising, with a section of feminists supporting women’s rights to wear the modest garments out of their free will.

While some term them as something that restricts women’s social participation, supporters think of it as enabling garments to preserve women’s dignity and self-worth. Many Muslim feminists also believe that feminism and the hijab need not be mutually exclusive. Women wear it for reasons apart from social norms such as comfort, safety or religious choice.

Rahman’s and Khatija’s responses to the backlash raise the pertinent question of whether it is right to castigate the garments and women who wear them without knowing their take on the matter.