Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

Dhu'l Qadah 1424 H
January 2004
Volume 17-01 No : 205
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The Hijab Hysteria

The Hijab Hysteria

To push women to the fringe and castigate those who choose to wear a veil as extremists, is an insult to not only Western values, but a blow to the forces of moderation

By Mohammed Omar Masry

At this very moment, leaders in Europe are debating the menace of the hijab. This article of clothing worn by many Muslim women has somehow ridiculously been deemed as the sign of fundamentalist Islam intent on destroying European civilization. That elderly grandmother hobbling down the Champs de Elysses with a simple white scarf on is a threat to the sovereignty of not only France, but her niece a few hundred miles to the east is a threat to the nation of Turkey. Not only is this paranoia found in countries that espouse the values of liberty and equality in the West, but also in so called “Islamic nations” like Turkey.

While some would use this sort of injustice to advocate violence or support for Osama Bin Laden and his ilk, I say, use the power of ridicule. If for instance the Turkish government wants to ban the hijab in state institutions such as universities because they see it as a threat to the Turkish Republic,then display your loyalty to your faith and your nation by taking that Turkish flag and wearing it as a hijab. Nothing helps encourage fundamentalism and support for extremists than when illegimate governments suppress free speech or attempt to suppress one from practising one’s faith. In too many corrupt autocratic Muslim nations, the only place where any sort of free speech is allowed is at a mosque.

Muslim women can be a force for moderation, whether its running an underground resistance to the Taliban in Afghanistan or seeking to build a modern Islamic identity in nations like Malaysia by intelligently combining Western civil laws and Islamic Jurisprudence. To push them to the fringe and castigate those that choose to wear a veil as extremists is an insult to not only Western values, but a blow to the forces of moderation. Some of the most strident and vocal reformists in countries like Iran are devout Muslim women such as reformists like Fatima Higah, who will passionately and intelligently argue that the current regime has betrayed Islamic principles of social justice Women like her are striving to work toward Muslim societies and nations that will make this world a better one for our children. Women like Merve Kervaci forced from her seat in the Turkish Parliament for wearing a hijab will face death threats without fear, and struggle for inclusion and acceptance not with violence, but voices.

If the European Union seeks to serve as a model of civic society and cooperation for a common good then it must engage its Muslim populations, male and female, in an attempt to find understanding, tolerance, and moderation. Attempting to disenfranchise one of the fastest growing practised faiths in Europe would not only weaken the accomplishments of the European Union, but discourage the admiration many in the Middle East and Muslim regions possess.

I serve as a soldier in the US Army. I am also a Muslim. Time and time again, I am not only treated with respect for my faith, but meet other Muslims who are also surprised by how well they are treated. That includes not only the Sergeant at Fort Bragg who wears a veil while in uniform (brown in color to match camoflauge tones), but a Muslim captain, who belongs to the Ahmadiyyah sects and laments on how in his home country he might be treated as a heretic by fellow citizens. In my civilian life, I see American Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab by choice sometimes, and ironically, to the disapproval of their families. It is a common source of humour among American Muslim male college students that Muslim Student groups run by females are often more organized, successful at encouraging interest from other students, and end in more intelligent and thoughtful discussions.

If nations want to battle extremism they need to arm their “fanatical moderate Muslims”. Not with weapons, but the example they provide to lend strength to the values they hold so dearly. It may not be as “sexy” as a cruise missile, but it does our common humanity a whole lot better

The writer can be reached at omar_786_amin@yahoo.com
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