26 July 2013

"Hijab" Has No Basis in Sharia

Muslim Hijab
Department of Education (DepED) Armin Luistro recently asked female Muslim teachers not to wear their veils or "hijab" inside classrooms, in part to promote better relationships between teachers and pupils. They can still wear the veil outside class, but they are told to remove the veil during lessons so they can interact better with students.

However, the key arguments appear too shallow and very limited in scope all just for the purpose of lip recognition. The rationale should be more comprehensive and state that "face-coverings prevent the clear identification of a person, which is both a security risk, and a social hindrance within a society which relies on facial recognition and expression in communication."

The ban should also not be limited to "hijab" alone. It should include all face-covering headgear, such as masks, helmets, balaclava and other veils covering the face in public places, except under specified circumstances. The ban should apply to the burqa, a full-body covering, if it covers the face.

Some might argue that this is a violation of the freedom of expression of those women who wear the burqa or "hijab", since face coverings are but a relic of tribal tradition. However, some Islam experts will argue otherwise.

During the public hearing in France's National Assembly in 2010 on whether to ban face-covering veil or other mask in public places, Dalil Boubakeur, the grand mufti of the Paris Mosque, the largest and most influential in France, testified that the "hijab" was not prescribed in Islam. He further added that in the French and contemporary context, its spread was associated with radicalization and criminal behavior. He also added that its wearing was inconsistent with France's concept of the secular state; but that due to expected difficulties in applying a legal ban, he would prefer to see the issue handled "case by case".

Abdel Muti al-Bayyumi, a member of the council of clerics at Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt, applauded the French ban and stated that the "hijab" has no basis in Sharia. He also said, "I want to send a message to Muslims in France and Europe. The "hijab" has no basis in Islam. I used to feel dismayed when I saw some of the sisters (in France) wearing the "hijab". This does not give a good impression of Islam."

Yusuf al Qaradawi, another prominent Egyptian Islamic scholar, stated that in his view "the hijab is not obligatory" while criticizing France for violating the freedom of those Muslim women who hold the view that it is and criticizing France in that "they allow other women to freely dress in a revealing and provocative manner".

According to numerous feminist groups, as well as some human rights advocacy groups, wearing the scarf symbolizes a woman's submission to men. It is believed that permitting the veil in schools risks opening the door to other practices that exist in the Muslim world, and which pose even more of a handicap for women.

It is often rejected that forbidding the "hijab" would limit freedom. Rather, it is argued that the "hijab" is not a free choice, but a result of social pressures (i.e., if a law does not forbid the practice of wearing the hijab, social pressure may render it obligatory).

These arguments are shared by some Islamic feminists. Thus, Fadela Amara, the former president of the organization Ni Putes Ni Soumises, stated that: "The veil is the visible symbol of the subjugation of women, and therefore has no place in the mixed, secular spaces of France's public school system."

Now, some radical extremist and Taliban-supporters will try to convince weak-minded people that the scarf is a symbol of belonging to the Muslim community. According to this line of reasoning, women who wear the veil display their religious and community affiliation. However, they fail to recognize that wearing of any religious-affiliated symbols only harms the unity and secularism of students in public schools. Secularism in any public institution is incompatible with wearing ostentatious religious articles, whatever they be.