Much ado about nothing

By: Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

With the mention of the words head-cover or hijab and full-face veil known as Niqab, generally picture of a Muslim woman emerges in one’s mind. However, it would be an exaggeration to claim that every single Muslim woman dons these garments across the globe. No, that is not the case but an overwhelming number of Muslim women do cover their hairs and faces with the above-mentioned garments. Until the 1980s, use of hijab and niqab was confined to mostly Gulf countries or other Muslim countries. It was not a common sight then in Europe or other western countries.

I have learned from my past experiences that many in the West had never objected to the use of hijab but the sight of a niqab-clad woman raises quite a few eyebrows. In all fairness to the West, the masses had always been very tolerant toward the use of these garments. Gradually, however, hijab or niqab became a common sight in almost all the western countries. Many Muslim women started to use other means to cover their heads. Many of them would wear caps and sunglasses. In other words, it was the religious freedom guaranteed in the West that helped the Muslims in carrying out their religious obligations without any fear. It is a well-documented fact that many Muslims migrated to Europe to escape persecutions in their own countries. And even the women who wear Niqab in Europe praise the tolerance of the Europeans.

However, things have changed and many blame the 9/11 attack for this shift. Some countries began to slap an outright ban on Niqab and some started mulling a similar decision in this regard. This action and debate earned the ire of Muslims. This writer believes there is no need to react angrily. Islam teaches tolerance and there is nothing in Islam that says it is unlawful for a woman not to wear a niqab. Many people claim that banning the niqab would deprive the Muslim woman from her right to choose. On the other hand, there are many who think that such a tug-of-war will only stoke tensions between Muslim communities and their governments or host countries (in case of visitors).

There are different points of view in this regard. Some say banning niqab is tantamount to attacking teachings of Islam and many defend this decision citing security concerns.

Europe has a large number of Muslims and most of them have no other country to go to because Europe is their home. They migrated to it and they know the different lifestyle in Europe. They either have to adapt and integrate or it will be hard for them and their children to live a peaceful life. Many of the Muslims in Europe did not choose to be Europeans and did not want to leave their home countries but political unrest and economic hardship forced them to migrate. And it is a known fact that many of them enjoyed good education and better living standards and many of them even had better religious freedom than their former homeland. Europe is very tolerant, so, Muslims have to be law-abiding instead of lawbreakers.

Niqab or hijab in Islam is still being debated among Muslim scholars and it is very important for Muslims in Europe to adapt and integrate in the European communities and be part of the society not a burden on it. For Muslims, there is no law in Europe that forbids them from practicing their religion. There are many mosques and Islamic centers all over Europe and niqab should not become a separating wall between Muslims and the other communities. Muslims must adapt to any ban instead of protesting it. Finally, for the information of the readers, the ban on niqab did not start in Europe; it started in Muslim countries many years before the European ban even though the rules have changed. Turkey and Tunisia are two examples.





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