By Sarvat N. Hanif, Weekly Pulse Magazine, September 16, 2013
Thousands of Muslim women around the world observed the Hijab Day on September 4. The day was observed with the enthusiasm that observing Hijab was the right of Muslim women. She is free to observe veil and has every right to protect herself by observing Hijab.
The day is marked to pay tribute to the martyr of Hijab, Marva Al-Shirbini, who was stabbed in the back by a racist German Islamophobe in a court. The brutal killing of 32-year-old pregnant Marva raised a lot of questions in the minds of people around the world in 2009. She was stabbed 18 times. She was about to give evidence against him in a case where his conviction was that he called her a terrorist for wearing headscarf.
The whole scene happened in front of her three-year-old son and when her husband tried to save his wife, a policeman in the court shot the husband. This is probably the saddest scene one can ever imagine.
Modesty is not frequently understood as threatening rather it is, by definition, an attempt to be less threatening or even less visible. However, it is understood differently by different people and, consequently, people exhibit modesty in different ways. In the case of wearing of head-scarves by Muslim women, the act of modesty has been perceived as threatening to Western values and even threatening to Western security.
People who are all enlightened feminists, liberals, and overall well-intentioned claim that their position (almost universally against the wearing of head-scarf) is the one that they hold in the interest of women who have been forced to subjugate themselves to men and wear their head-scarf as a symbol of oppression.
Their myopic vision does not allow them to see that a woman might choose, of her own free will, to wear a Hijab, a burkha, or a niqab. Not only is it insulting because it is an affirmation (in a back-handed way) of male dominance, because it implies that every woman who wears a head-scarf has been successfully dominated by a man, but also it is insulting because it is so patronizing for a man to presume to tell a woman that she, without her knowledge, is being oppressed, but that he, in all of his influence, power, and wisdom, will save her from the shackles of the society.
The inherent question that they have is “why would a woman choose to wear a head-scarf? Why would a woman choose to be so modest? Is that not anti-feminist of her? If she were just forced to be ‘liberated’, would she not come to see how much better ‘our’ cultural conventions, (which are often called “liberties”) are compared to the archaic primitive backward ways of her own people?”
We all are citizens of a free country, and we have a constitution that guarantees us the freedom of worship, religion, association and expression. Every person has the right to the freedom of thought or conscience, belief or faith, and choice in matters of religion, including the freedom to change his religion or faith.
Yet Hijab, an integral part of everyday life of hundreds of millions of women across the globe, is under attack in different countries. In France and Germany, authorities have started restricting women’s autonomy by banning Hijab. In France, young girls are being stopped from entering school premises wearing Hijab; in Turkey Muslim women are being denied medical treatment and excluded from parliament for wearing Hijab and in Tunisia Muslim women are taken to prison and tortured if they wear Hijab.
This is in blatant contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights. Muslims right to dress with modesty is also recognized in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. To deny Muslims, this is to deny them their religious and human rights.
All Muslims right from the beginning agree that the word “li ya ‘budun” which is derived from ‘ibadah, and is translated here as “serve”, means total obedience. “ibadah in Islam is not merely a set of some rituals to be performed at certain times or days. It encompasses a Muslim’s whole life. Islam means surrender to the will of Allah and when we pledge to do so, we are called Muslims. To guide us in our worldly life, and help us to reach near Him in the hereafter Allah has sent to us, through His Last Prophet (PBUH.), a comprehensive set of laws embracing all walks of life — domestic, social, financial, moral and spiritual.
The Quran has treated no subject of law so elaborately and in such detailed manner as the laws of matrimony, will, inheritance and other related matters, including manner of dresses for women.
Rules directing women to dress in such a manner as it covers their whole body and preserves their dignity is enunciated in the Quran. It is a common heritage of all Muslims and not confined to a certain sect or community. Also, it is not a cultural tradition; it is a compulsory divine law, and cannot be discarded without incurring a sense of sin and guilt.
Hijab is not a piece of cloth on your head. It’s a way of life. By merely covering the head does not mean that the requirement of Hijab has been fulfilled. Wearing Hijab requires much more than just covering the head. Hijab is the way you talk, the way you walk, the very way you carry yourself. In fact, Hijab is an attitude in itself; it’s a whole way of life.
It is considered that the West has given freedom to women, which is a wrong belief. Using women and exploiting her commercially as sexual objects does not represent freedom or civilized behavior. Wearing Hijab does not mean that it reduces the freedom of women, rather it is the symbol of freedom and prestige. Hijab for Muslim women is the sign of independence.
A woman who wears Hijab liberates herself from the vain and selfish desire to show off her beauty and to compete with other women around her. This is an innate desire that is exacerbated by wanton display and tamed by modesty and covering. With Hijab, a woman does not have to live up to the society’s expectations of what is desirable, and she no longer has to use her beauty to win recognition or acceptance from those around her.
Hijab is not meant for restriction rather it is a means in which Muslim society may function in an appropriate manner. Islamic regulations are unique to the highest standards of the Muslim identity of chastity, righteousness, and moral uprightness. Islam protects and safeguards individuals and society from awkward situations. The Messenger of Allah (P.B.U.H) said: “Verily for every religion there is a characteristic, and the characteristic of Islam is Haya`a (modesty, shyness, bashfulness)” [Ibn Majah]