Source: Huffington Post
By Atif Rashid
Freelance writer, community events organiser, speaker on religious platforms and aspiring journalist
One shouldn’t be too surprised over the endless pursuit of issues regarding Muslim women by our leaders. Considering how our society strongly stands for freedom of expression, justice and plurality, it’s ironic that the very thing which Muslim women use to express their identity and liberty – the hijab – is the exact reason they are highlighted so much more.
It’s almost as if they say, ‘these Muslim women aren’t conforming to our ways of freedom, liberty and sexuality, they must be stopped and brought under our idea of freedom!’ Of course, this xenophobic assault on Muslim women is done under the pretext of security and liberty.
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who I wish all politicians would emulate (I’ll have to hold my breath for that) expounded the folly of Western animosity against the Hijab saying, ‘It is a cruel joke to claim you are liberating people from oppression by dictating in law what they can and cannot wear.’ If only Cameron and the many other European countries opposing the Hijab would pay attention. It’s little surprise. If we’d go to war on the pretext of freedom, liberty and democracy, using that as an excuse for anything else is fair game.
Perhaps Muslim women should themselves be asked, whether they choose to wear the Hijab or someone else forces them to. I’ve not known many women who have their dress sense dictated to them and certainly shouldn’t be by the state far less than by their own family.
Islam isn’t a rigid or restrictive religion which can be forcefully imposed. Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Caliph of the largest organised worldwide Muslim community stated it clearly saying, ‘men should remember that they have not been given powers to police others and should restrain themselves. It is not for them to cover the heads of women from outside. Men are commanded to restrain their eyes; they should fulfill their own obligations. There is not even any commandment to forcibly cover the heads of Muslim women.’
He then went on to reprimand such men saying it is these types of men who have hardline ideas. This can work the other way around also, if Muslim men aren’t permitted to forcibly cover the heads of their women, other men, who aren’t Muslim anyway have absolutely no right to prevent women covering their heads and faces.
Now, if there is a legitimate security concern or situation which requires women remove their covering, then that isn’t disallowed by Islam. In fact Islam teaches that one must always act according to the exigencies of the occasion. So while courts or airports can request women to reveal their face, enshrining oppressive laws preventing women from wearing the veil is an attack on freedom and plurality.
As for classrooms, Muslim women aren’t required to cover up in front of children anyway. And while schools already make their own policies regarding dress codes, Muslim women have for many decades been effectively teaching in classrooms, caring as nurses in hospitals and being productive members of society – with the Hijab! And Nadiya Hussain, 2015 Great British Bake-Off winner is proof of that.
Which brings me onto to Cameron’s plan to teach women English. We’re all for education and one must learn the language of the country one lives in to contribute to it effectively. However, Cameron’s shortsightedness and the West’s obsession with Muslim women overshadows what could potentially be an effective programme to teach people the language. The ESOL course already exists though and perhaps Cameron should think about investing more into existing programmes which essentially do the same thing rather than singling out Muslim women.
Suffice to say, women have always been oppressed by men in history. It wasn’t long ago women in the West were refused the right to work, divorce, inherit and even vote – rights Islam gave women centuries ago. The Hijab gives Muslim women dignity, allows them to carry out their tasks without the leering looks of men and reminds men to guard their own modesty and afford greater respect to the opposite sex. Far from being oppressive, for women in my life, the Hijab is a major liberating factor and rarely if ever limits them from the work they wish to do, apart from when others try and dictate to them of course.