Al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri has used the recent Hijab controversy in Karnataka to target democracy in India, saying "we must stop being deceived by the mirage of the pagan Hindu democracy".
In a 8.43-minute video clip released by the terror outfit online, and verified by the American SITE Intelligence Group, Zawahiri also showered praises on Karnataka college student Muskan Khan for confronting a group of students opposing hijab in her college in early February.
In the Arabic video clip, with English subtitles provided by SITE Intelligence Group that tracks online activity of white supremacist and jihadist organisations, Zawahiri also reads out a poem which he says he wrote for "our Mujahid sister" and for her "brave feat".
"May Allah reward her for exposing the reality of Hindu India and the deception of its pagan democracy," the Al-Qaeda chief said in the video, also ending speculations about his death due to natural causes.
The video, the Al-Qaeda chief's second in the past six months, focused mostly on the hijab controversy.
"...we must shake off the delusions that confound us... we must stop being deceived by the mirage of the pagan Hindu democracy of India, which, to begin with, was never more than a tool to oppress Muslims," said Zawahiri, one of the world's most wanted terrorists.
Addressing the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent, he said they must realise that in the real world there is no such thing as 'human rights' or 'respect of the Constitution' or 'law'.
"…It is exactly the same scheme of deception which the West has employed against us, the true nature of which was exposed by France, Holland, and Switzerland when they banned the hijab while allowing public nudity," he said.
"The enemies of Islam are one and the same…who vilify the hijab and assail the Islamic Shariah... It is a war on Islam, its core doctrines, its laws, ethics, and etiquettes."
Calling for the unity of Muslims from China to the Islamic Maghreb, and from the Caucasus to Somalia, Zawahiri said, "We must rely on Allah alone and actively cooperate with one another."
"We must realize that the governments imposed on us, specifically in Pakistan and Bangladesh, do not defend us; rather, they defend the very enemies that they have empowered them to fight against us," he said.
The hijab row began in January from a government PU College in Udupi where six students who attended classes wearing headscarves in violation of the stipulated dress code were sent out. It later spread to a few other colleges in nearby Kundapur and Byndoor.
The Karnataka High Court later dismissed all writ petitions filed by Muslim girl students seeking permission to wear a hijab in colleges, saying Hijab is not a part of essential religious practices of Islam.(With PTI inputs)