Hijaab (Islamic covering) has become a highly controversial issue in the West in general and in France in particular after the ban on wearing Hijaab in its public schools and other places.
This ban came as part of the policy of racial discrimination and negative attitudes towards Islam, which aims at eliminating the means of understating the importance of Hijaab and its role in society. However, this pressure should not prevent the Muslim woman from adhering to her Hijaab even if this requires leaving the country that fights it.
We interviewed some non-Arab Muslim women and some employed sisters to shed light on the importance of Hijaab and its influence on their lives through their own experiences, and whether Hijaab hinders their progress.
Hijaab is a great blessing:
Yugoslavian, Dr. Suzan Habib, 38 years old, who currently lives in Lebanon with her family, spoke about the importance of Hijaab in her life since she began wearing it 15 years ago, saying,
"Hijaab is the greatest blessing that Allaah The Exalted bestowed upon me and I thank Him for it, in spite of the difficulties that I faced in my life since I left my family in Yugoslavia to marry a Muslim man. I became accustomed to a new lifestyle. Indeed, I left the material life behind me, but I am happy and pleased."
Dr. Suzan has worn the Hijaab since the late eighties, when adherence to the Hijaab was still rare in Yugoslavia. Her family opposed the idea, but she insisted on wearing the Hijaab, as what was important to her was to please Allaah The Almighty. She says,
"I am assured and satisfied in spite of the fact that some people think of Hijaab as old fashioned. However, many people respected my decision to wear the Hijaab and blessed it considering it a step to what is better."
When we asked her about her opinion about the ban on Hijaab in France, she said,
"Fighting Hijaab means fighting Islam and hating it. I wonder! Where is the freedom that France claims, while it sets regulations on the personal freedom of Muslims? How can they ban Hijaab? Is it acceptable to grant freedom only to immorality and corruption? This shows their utter ignorance. Is the woman who adheres to Hijaab to protect herself considered unworthy of freedom? How is a woman judged in such cases as these?"
Dr. Suzan adds,
"Hijaab gives the woman the freedom to move and work. My Hijaab is not an obstacle in the way of my work as a physician and I do my work with absolute freedom and deal with all social classes. The woman who wears Hijaab can respectably work in many job. Islam gave women the right to wear Hijaab in order to protect her from corruption and preserve her as a human, and maintain her dignity."
Why do they interfere with people’s choices regarding what they wear?
A French Muslim sister, Marian Jose (Maryam), 36 years old speaks about how she began wearing the Hijaab 14 years ago, saying,
"Before wearing the Hijaab, I was living in a community dominated by the values of moral dissolution and absurdity. The youth in particular went over to the life of recklessness that encouraged them to spend their time in nightclubs, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, and having unlawful sexual relations. These evils take place under the pretext of "personal freedom" that the French enjoy. This continued until I met some Muslim students who influenced me greatly especially regarding my religiousness. I then realized that personal freedom is not about abandoning values and morals or keeping away from religion; on the contrary, the Hijaab and Islam in general gave me freedom that allowed me to recognize my true value as a respectable human and not a cheap commodity that is available to everyone."
She commented on the ban on Hijaab, saying,
"Adherence to Hijaab does not accord with the fancies of many people; therefore, they ban and fight it especially that the woman in many societies has become a tool for promoting various goods and products. That is why the woman’s wearing Hijaab is inconvenient for them because it will constrain their greed and exploitation of women.
I believe that issuing a law targeting a particular social group in French society is based on a racial policy that contradicts the spirit of modern constitutions and legislation, which call for equality between all citizens regarding their rights and duties."
"Imposing a ban on Hijaab practically means imposing a particular style of clothes on girls and this is essentially inconsistent with the principles of personal freedom firstly as well as contradicting religious freedom. Consequently, it imposes principles of a new secular creed."
Hijaab is necessary to achieve equality between men and women:
An American Muslim woman, Julia Wayne, 29 years old, who has been wearing Hijaab for ten years, takes pride in her Hijaab saying,
"Hijaab is what distinguishes me, especially when I go to America…I feel that I am distinguished from other women. Hijaab enables me to keep my femininity to myself and it is no longer available for everyone to see. Islam considers the woman a jewel that must be protected, respected, and honored. This is what I call the personal freedom of the woman. I managed to complete my study in the field of commerce and my Hijaab did not prevent me from it. This is because the opinion of the men and students of me was different from other women who do not wear the Hijaab, the Hijaab forced them to respect me.
Some people depict Hijaab as a means for excluding women from mainstream society and keeping her at home away from participation in the political and cultural movement of the society. They also present the Hijaab as an example of discrimination in Islam against women. I believe that this way of thinking is the cause of injustice and denying women’s rights. In fact, Islam introduced the Hijaab to provide the woman with protection and to enable her to engage in public life."
As for the real cause behind the campaign against the Hijaab, she said,
"I think that the campaign against Hijaab is due to the background of the deep-rooted fear of the natural increase in the Muslim population in France, particularly that the average age of the European population in general and France in particular is high.
In addition, France considers this as a warning against the global spread of Islam as a creed, culture, and identity. We should also not forget that Islam is the second religion in France. In my opinion, the Islamic Hijaab is a personal choice and an integral part of the public, personal, and religious freedoms."
A civil engineer, ‘Aa’ishah ‘Abdur-Rahmaan, 24 years old, who wanted to travel to France to complete her studies, said,
"Hijaab is an integral part of a woman’s personality through which she protects herself and society against immorality. It is better for us to be aware of what is wrong before committing it, because prevention is better than treatment.
Why do we wait until we fall into mistakes and then find ourselves forced to face the evil consequences? No one can make a mistake without being affected by his environment. In such a case, protection is a virtue because it protects one against falling into what is worse.
They deny the woman some of her sought rights, as Hijaab gives the woman freedom. Hijaab does not impose limitations on the woman, but it deters those who are immoral. In such a case, your freedom will be limited."
As for her own experience with Hijaab, she said,
"I believe that Hijaab does not create an obstacle as it only veils a woman’s beauty, not her mind or freedom and it increases people’s respect for her."
Ghaadah Amhaz, 28 years old, said about the ban on Hijaab,
"The campaign against Hijaab is a campaign against the Muslim woman who is responsible for her family. The Muslim woman all over the world plays a vital role on all political and social levels, while taking care of her family at the same time. Hijaab never hinders educational progress, as seeking knowledge is a duty on every Muslim man and woman. In addition, there is no Islamic text separating the woman’s Hijaab and her work and knowledge. Of course, this is what we call Divine Justice.
Cultural and political attempts to eliminate the values of the community seek to spread immorality. Of course, this does not accord with the presence of women who adhere to the Hijaab. Moreover, the mass media helps this invasion through exploiting the body and beauty of the woman in a cheap way. This is contrary to the woman who wears the Hijaab and behaves as a human being with dignity and true value.
Hijaab never deprived me of my personal rights. Finally, I take this opportunity to say that the mass media must present purposeful programs that enlighten the youth and warn them against the dangers of falling into immorality and abandoning their values and beliefs."