Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Niqab Controversy

The flames of controversy over religious and individual rights continue to burn, the darkened embers of our Ummah providing the fuel for those whishing to stoke the fire.

The latest furor comes from England where certain politicians have taken a stand against the Muslimah’s right to wear niqab. Recent comments by Jack Straw, the MP for Blacburn, caused controversy and conflict when he called on Muslim women to stop wearing veils. Furthermore he said the coverings made “better, positive relations” between communities “more difficult”. He said the practice of concealing features was “a visible statement of separation and of difference”.

A statement of this nature is misinformed, illogical and selectively discriminatory based on ones religious beliefs. Considering that 30% of his constituency is Muslim, one would think Mr. Straw would be more responsible; Straw should realize that his job is to represent the interests of the constituency not to alienate one third of it.

But Jack Straw is not alone, indeed more British politicians feel the need to defend Mr. Straw and his decision to ask women to remove their niqab when the come to him as part of his constituency. Another MP, Harriet Harman recently said “Wearing a full face veil harms women's participation in society and effectively bars them from becoming an MP” and thus women should not wear the niqab. Trevor Phillips, who heads the Commission for Racial Equality was also asked about whether full-face veils should be allowed in the classroom, and went so far as to say "If I were the head teacher in that school, I would probably say that veils should not be worn in the classroom."

I do not know what I should feel more, anger at the arrogance of these people or sadness at the ignorance and misunderstanding that they possess. They defend and justify their positions base on the idea “If you can’t read their face that does provide some separation.” However this statement has no credibility under any scrutiny. Jewish men wear the yamikahs, Catholic nuns where a habbitt, Ethiopian and Indian woman wear forms of head coverings, Hindu men where turbans, all of which are meant to offer a form of separation based on ones own cultural or religious beliefs. Each individual uses their clothing or looks as a means to identify their beliefs it is our ability to see this and understand which allows us to deal appropriately with each person base on our understanding of their customs.

The inability to adapt combined with ineffective communication will set cultural reform back decades if it is not corrected. Let them stop talking about the intolerance of others and take a closer look at their own intolerances. A society which decry’s women for dressing modestly, celebrates women for dressing scantily, and judges people base on their looks rather then their actions is one small step away from the oppression and persecution indicative of the medieval dark ages.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Alsalamu alikum bro Hamza.
what is happening in England now had happened typically in france 2 or 3 years ago when the french government decided to forbid wearing Hijab at schools or any other formal institution.
believe it or not, I don't blame MR.Straw or other politicians for acting in that way concerning islam, may be what they do or say makes them so bias and hateful to islam and muslims , it is their beliefs that they act according to though. I don't blame wolves for killing lambs. whose fault is this then? I believe it is muslims' fault . they are so feeble,defeatist and indifferent people in a way that entices any of their enemies to attack them in a way or another. and to prove that let me show you a very strange thing that happened during the french attempt to prevent muslim women from wearing Hijab claiming that they do this to defeat racism that appears when people wear or put any stuffs that reflects their beliefs, france faced a considerably angry reaction throughout the islamic world so it had to get the approval of some islamic symbols to come over all criticism which they faced ,at this time the french minister of foreign affairs visited Egypt the most distinguished islamic country to meet the head of the biggest islamic institution who is considered as the supreme reference of mostly all muslims in the world (Sheikh Al azhar ) Muhammad Said Tantawy, the french minister met Alsheikh to discuss the issue of forbidding wearing Hijab ,every one expected that Sheikh Alazhar as a big scholar will convince the french minister that Hijab is not just a symbol but it is an islamic instruction that is a basic thing in islam, and that the french government has no right to prevent women of wearing it . unfortunately nothing of that had happened, on the contrary, Sheikh Al azhar came out to tell the media during the press conference that france has all the right to implement what it sees on its land and that this issue is quite interior and does not concern anyone but the french government . that was the reaction of a big islamic scolar who head the biggest islamic institution , and we still blame others for being bias and untolerant , if we just have half the resolve and determination that they have , and if we have enough faith to change ourselves no one of our enemies would have dared to even think of confronting us.
dear Hamza , as long as we don't have reasons of power nor willing to change ourselves to better , I think things will get worse and our enemies will be more confident and more determined to destroy us. and as long as we forsake Allah's instructions and commandments he won't help us to get out of these horrible circumstances and adversities we face at this time

believer said...

Alsalamu alikum bro Hamza.
what is happening in England now had happened typically in france 2 or 3 years ago when the french government decided to forbid wearing Hijab at schools or any other formal institution.
believe it or not, I don't blame MR.Straw or other politicians for acting in that way concerning islam, may be what they do or say makes them so bias and hateful to islam and muslims , it is their beliefs that they act according to though. I don't blame wolves for killing lambs. whose fault is this then? I believe it is muslims' fault . they are so feeble,defeatist and indifferent people in a way that entices any of their enemies to attack them in a way or another. and to prove that let me show you a very strange thing that happened during the french attempt to prevent muslim women from wearing Hijab claiming that they do this to defeat racism that appears when people wear or put any stuffs that reflects their beliefs, france faced a considerably angry reaction throughout the islamic world so it had to get the approval of some islamic symbols to come over all criticism which they faced ,at this time the french minister of foreign affairs visited Egypt the most distinguished islamic country to meet the head of the biggest islamic institution who is considered as the supreme reference of mostly all muslims in the world (Sheikh Al azhar ) Muhammad Said Tantawy, the french minister met Alsheikh to discuss the issue of forbidding wearing Hijab ,every one expected that Sheikh Alazhar as a big scholar will convince the french minister that Hijab is not just a symbol but it is an islamic instruction that is a basic thing in islam, and that the french government has no right to prevent women of wearing it . unfortunately nothing of that had happened, on the contrary, Sheikh Al azhar came out to tell the media during the press conference that france has all the right to implement what it sees on its land and that this issue is quite interior and does not concern anyone but the french government . that was the reaction of a big islamic scolar who head the biggest islamic institution , and we still blame others for being bias and untolerant , if we just have half the resolve and determination that they have , and if we have enough faith to change ourselves no one of our enemies would have dared to even think of confronting us.
dear Hamza , as long as we don't have reasons of power nor willing to change ourselves to better , I think things will get worse and our enemies will be more confident and more determined to destroy us. and as long as we forsake Allah's instructions and commandments he won't help us to get out of these horrible circumstances and adversities we face at this time

Hamza Hashem said...

Assalam Alaikum Bro,

What is happening in England and what has transpired in France are separate events that share a commonality. As a presumably educated and liberal society, we should have learned from the French law that bans hijab in schools.

It promotes the ideology of conformism where we all must be the same and those who are different will be alienated for being wrong, bad or whatever the chosen title will be.

As for not blaming a wolf for killing a lamb, do you then blame the lamb? Of course not - As seen by the furor over Sheik Al-Hilali has proven even the West does not endorse the idea of blaming the victim. I blame those who attack what they do not understand, what they dear, because it is out of this ignorance that much more damage will occur.

As for Muslim reaction, I cannot worry about what the Grand Mufti so-and-so says, or what Sheik Whats-his-name issues as a fatwa. What I can concern myself with is my circle of influence. I can change my actions accordingly (to Quran and Sunnah) and I can defend my rights while hoping to inspire others to do the same. We cannot wait for the mythical leader of inspiration to come to our salvation; we must look to ourselves for our own resolve. We must unite and be strong, but it all starts with the individual taking responsibility for his own actions and making all efforts to strive for the sake of Allah. The leaders will not stand up for us until we make them.

Let us be strong as individuals, then as communities, then as a nation. Let us not let others dictate what Islam is or should be. I applaud any woman who chooses the niqab for herself, and defend her right to wear it. If one would only listen, he could hear more clearly.

Hamza Hashem said...

I also find it interesting that a country who makes a 'cultural sensitivity' class a requirement for its armed forces, thinks nothing of the cultural insensitivity of its politicians

BTW -

Mr Straw was not asking these same people to remove their niqab as they cast votes for him, so why should he now. His constiuency in Blackburn did not grow a 30% Muslim population overnight; I would be curious as to what his reasoning is that made him cause this controversy now...

egyptaya said...

Asalamu alekum Hamza,

Mr.Straw can ask for anything he thinks fits his society as we would ask forighners to wear modestly when comming to visit our islamic countries. The responsiblity falls on those who follow whats been asked of them. If England force muslim women not to wear niqab or hijab that would be another issue. The muslims of England need to be active enough to force their goverment to respect their ways of living. Is he wrong, ys he is, does he have the right to say what he said, ys he does, do we have to follow his suggestion , heck no .

Hamza Hashem said...

Egyptaya

I do agree he had the legal right to say what he said. However I feel it was inappropriate considering his position and his reasoning.

In the end it is as you said, our repsonsability to enforce our beliefs, and regulate our own actions. He can not force us, and we should learn from this and be forewarned...

believer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
nooreen said...

dear Hamza,
I have read your new article with great pleasure. I would like to debate following points regarding the issues. We ,intelligent people in UK know why Jack Straw made this announcement . Blair is on his last legs and Labour leadership is looming in the horizon. So the best way to get some publicty is to talk about the muslims. It is even more convenient if he can talk about the muslim women because they are apparently oppressed. Alas, he cannot say that muslim woman in his constituency is oppressed .Hence he decided to blame on the “ visible sign of separation”!!!.
On one hand I agree with Egyptaya, he is allowed to speak his mind reinforcing a nation’s notions. And as a politician he will use every opportunity to use it for his own advantage. But it is the choice and belief of the individual that matters at the end.

However, Niqab is very culturally linked. It was a pre – Islamic dress code ( prior to Prophet Muhammed )practiced in Saudi Arabia. ( I cannot remember the source of this information to quote ) Showing just your eyes is not completely prescribed in Quran. The Ayas which realtes to it , according to some commentators ,are only addressed to prophets family. Please correct me if I am wrong in these information.

Whilst I am completely in agreement with any muslim woman who wishes to wear a niqab as her human right, I wonder whether it is actually a requirement prescribed my Islam. If it is not, then as a citizen of this nation I would rather wear hijab and assimilate into the society and spread the good world of my religion. Yes, I agree with you Hamza , that you can do the same wearing a niqab. However I think, that it is human nature that we need to trust the people who we talking to.. For you to perceive another person you need to gather as much as information as you can . Facial expression is one of the tools we posses and yes, I believe that by hiding it you are unable to access that tool.
Hamza, after so long nice to read your article. Thank you
Nooreen