Historically, Muslim women have always been a topic of discussion by the media and countries around the world, with particular attention to dress code. It reached extremes when some countries started banning the Hijab and Niqab by law. Numerous incidents have caused outrage about the banning of religious head coverings.
Why? Because it directly infringes on a person’s right to practice their religion freely.
Why do Muslim Women observe Hijab?
In an article published by Striving for Modesty (Why do Muslim Women observe Hijab), it is explained that Hijab should be observed by both Muslim men and Muslim women as it is a commandment from Allah (SWT). It is a symbol of Modesty and represents ones Islamic identity. An aspect that forms part of Hijab is the observing of Niqab. Observing Niqab is a practice fulfilled by Muslim Women. While Islamic scholars have differences of opinion on whether it is obligatory or not, most agree that it is an Act of Piety.
Countries that have banned religious head covering including Hijab and Niqab
One of the most famous incidents involving the banning of Hijab took place in France, where it was the first European country to introduce a blanket ban on wearing burkas in public. This became law in 2011 and included the banning of Niqab. Since then other countries including, Austria, Denmark, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Netherlands, China, Sri Lanka, and Switzerland, have passed laws banning the wearing of face veils.
Last year, on January 1, 2022 at Government PU College in Udupi, an incident occurred where six female students claimed that they were not allowed to enter classrooms wearing hijab. This sparked outrage around the world, and many participated in Human Rights protests.
How do these bans and enforcements of Hijab written into these countries’ laws violate the rights of Muslim women?
1. It takes away the rights of Muslim Women to practice their religion freely
There are many misconceptions surrounding the dress code of Muslim Women, but if you take time to find out the truth by speaking directly to Muslim women and researching both the Qur’an and the Hadith and sought information from established Islamic scholars, you will find that the main reason Muslim women observe Hijab is to fulfil an act of worship to Allah (SWT). It is a representation of modesty and represents her Islamic identity. By banning the Hijab, you take away her right to fulfil this sincere act of worship.
2. It infringes on their Dignity
Islam is part of a Muslim woman’s identity, and that identity is represented outwardly in the form of Hijab. By forcing her to remove her Hijab, it infringes on her dignity as her choice to observe Hijab is a personal one between her and Allah (SWT). It is sacred and a law denying her right to observe Hijab, is denying her right to fulfil something that is sacred to her.
3. It promotes discrimination against Islam
Whenever there are laws pertaining to dress code, most often, it is the religion of Islam that forms the center of discussion. Countries that ban Hijab and Niqab know how sacred this practice is to Islam yet follow through with these bans. Regardless of any reason they give, it provides fertile ground for discrimination against Muslims as Islam becomes the center of discussion. By denying the right of Muslim women to observe Hijab and Niqab, it gives the message that when Muslim women do observe Hijab and Niqab, they are essentially breaking the law. It then gives the message that “there is something bad associated with practicing your religion freely.” This attracts discrimination and hatred towards the Muslim community.
Hijab and Niqab is a sacred practice in Islam, one in which Muslim women take immense pride in. For a better explanation of what Hijab means to Muslim women, here is a quote from one of our previous articles titled Modesty and Confidence:
The clothing we use to observe hijab, the khimar, abaya or niqab has more meaning than just being pieces of cloth. With hijab comes great responsibility. Sound familiar? That’s because there’s more to just wearing the hijab than this society lets on. Hijab is about working on your entire being, this includes manners, and the way we present ourselves in the public eye, our attitudes and behaviors. When observing hijab, we must remember that most importantly we are a representation of our faith. We represent what a Muslim women looks like how she acts and treats others and if that’s not a blessing within itself I don’t know what is.
When you enforce laws that denies the right to choose to practice something as beautiful as observing Hijab for the sake of Allah (SWT), you are ultimately taking away the very thing you preach laws are supposed to do which is to fulfil freedom and protection.
What are your thoughts on countries banning the Hijab by law? Do you feel it violates the rights of Muslim Women?
Written by: Zaghra Savahl
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While there are many Muslims who live in Muslim countries, a large portion of the ummah live in environments that do not align with Islamic principles. The "Navigating Non-Muslim Society" section of SFC is geared towards discussing the challenges that occur in these situations.