By Shah Tajamul
Islam has strictly accentuated the concept of civility, chastity modesty and decency in the interaction between unrelated members of the opposite gender. To maintain this civility, chastity, modesty and decency in the society, our dress code plays an important role. What this dress code should be? Should it be so visible or transparent as it can attract opposite sex and stimulate sexual desires? Or should it be like that which gives freedom to walk to both genders without any hurdle and minimizes the chance of attraction between members of opposite sex?
Obviously, it should be hurdle free which can prevent and protect the opposite gender from voyeuristic and vicarious looks, enjoyments and desires. For that, one should have to be well dressed, the dress which covers the private parts and has been prescribed for us by Allah (SWT). In today’s so called Modern World, this dress code has become a complex and burning issue, especially the dress code of Muslim women—the Veil (or hijab in Arabic). On one hand, the governments of such modern nations make tall claims of being democratic and giving people religious freedom but on the other hand they are habitually interfering in religious matters, domestic matters and so on-like what to wear, how to wear, what to eat, how to eat and the rest. This poking of nose in religious and private affairs of people not only blots the democratic nature of such nations but brings the shame and dishonour as well.
In recent years, the Muslim veil has become an issue of discussion and main point of controversy. Yet , there is fiery or frenzied debate, throughout the world, especially in West/Europe, regarding the Islamic veil. Many people have claimed that that the 9/11 attack was an inside job of United-States but still since 9/11 incident, everyone in Europe treated Muslim women wearing veil as “Bint-e-Laden” or labelled them with the word, “terrorist”. In French public schools, Muslim girl students or Muslim staff are barred to enter in the school premises and many other European countries have adopted or are drafting a similar bill. Even some Muslim feminists or women supports the ban on veil , considering this veil, body covering Burqa or Niqab (which covers the face apart from the eyes) as a sign of patriarchal oppression in a regressive or backward society.
Recently in India, the smell of hate against Islamic veil was also found when three veil-wearing Muslim women gram panchayat presidents from Kerala were banned at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s event were asked to remove the veil on Women’s Day (9th March, 2017). There are number of such incidents in which Muslim women wearing veils are humiliated and criticized. Why has this piece of cotton or silk cloth on women’s head become the focus of hot discussion, debate, worry and nervousness? Why is there so much hate, friction and trouble stuck with this piece of cloth? Is it not an attack or blame game against Islam? These are the questions one should have to ponder. Those, opposing Muslim veil, cite following reasons for their anger and hate against it.
Firstly, most of the critics incorrectly argue that Muslim women do not wear veil by will but they are frequently compelled by men to cover their heads and bodies, as a result of that their freedom and liberation is being threatened. Secondly, it is believed that veil is against the values of integration and community relationship i.e. social unity as it cultivates ‘difference’ rather than ‘connection’. Thirdly, it is said that veil is not a modern practice but an old-fashioned culture and it is thought that veil is not friendly with secular values, and is anti-progressive. Finally, it is also understood that veil is threat to peace and security, and also it is frequently linked with Islamic terrorism and extremism by media.
All these allegations and criticisms against Muslim veil are false and baseless. The Western or European nations should know the benefits of veil instead of propagating the half truths against Islamic veil. There are a countless benefits of veil and because of those benefits Muslim women prefer veil instead of roaming uncovered. The first benefit of veil is to please Allah (SWT). In Islam, it is an obligatory for everyone to please Allah (SWT) by accepting His commandments or instructions in every walk life—whether it is job, matters with others, eating, cooking, dressing, walking, cracking jokes, intermixing with opposite gender, content of speech and so on.
To be modest is one of such orders from Allah (SWT). In the Qur’an, Allah (SWT) informs the believing men and women to lower their gaze and to dress modestly. He (Allah) particularly speaks to women when He asks them not to show off their adornments and beauty, except that which is visible or apparent, and draw their veils over their bodies. (24:30-31). In view of this Qur’anic verse, they do not exhibit or display their beauty simply because it is the commandments of Allah (SWT). It is utter injustice to say that Muslim women wearing veil are forced by their husbands, fathers and brothers. The West thinks that Muslim women are repressed or oppressed by their male relative and they need to be liberated from the clutches or oppressions of veil. They want Muslim women to be like Western women—wearing high heels, short skirts, using lipsticks, and so on. Those who are claiming such liberation and modernity should know that changing the words of Allah (SWT) is not the sign of modernity, freedom or liberation but it is the sign of destruction and devastation. They should also know that Muslim women are only subservient to Allah (SWT) and not to the trends of fashion. Alas, those in the West claiming freedom to Muslim women actually do oppression by forcing them to takeoff the veil. The second benefit is that, it protects them from male harassment. It is a fact that in most of the cases men do not make any vulgar gestures or other demeaning things when any veil wearing women walks in front of them because the veil makes them understand as women in veil can be tough, harsh and belonging to the class of modest chaste women and thus do not approach. Allah (SWT) says in Qur’an:
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad); that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested or harassed. And Allah (swt) is often Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (33:59)
This Qur’anic verse clearly indicates that veil has been prescribed for the women so that they are recognized as modest women and this prevents them from being molested.
Advanced countries like America, Sweden, Canada, France and United Kingdom which observe almost no veil have highest number of sexual harassments and rapes. According to reports in U.S, 83% of girls aged 12 to 16 have experienced some forms of sexual harassment in public schools. In United Kingdom 1 out of 5 women (aged 16 to 59) experience some form of sexual nuisance. Had these countries observed the veil, the story could have been different. No doubt women in veil too have been molested in recent past but that does not mean one should have to abandon her veil. Most of the times it is the veil which almost minimizes the attentions of some men towards women. The third benefit of Muslim veil is that it increases the value of integration and social unity rather than “difference” as veil wearing Muslim women can easily mix with non-Muslim friends or strangers working outside home. The Muslim women might choose to stay at home and will be less social if anyone stops them to wear a veil (religious obligation). And the fourth benefit is that it forces people, mainly men, to go past the outer manifestation or physical appearances and focus on the women’s intellect or mind instead of size of skirts.
If we count, then there are myriad benefits of veil but still some anti-Islamic elements tarnish the image of the veil by saying that it hinders communication process. Everybody knows when we talk on mobile phones we hear loud and clear without seeing ones face. So their claim is baseless and if they want to ban the veil then it is obvious they should ban the mobile phones first. The Western/European nations want to ban it because they think that it is against secular values but if we see their justification, it is totally unsound. Firstly, they must have to keep in their minds that they are multi-cultural nations (i.e. not mono-cultural) and it is mandatory for them to respect all cultures. Secondly, it would be against individual rights to force what one should wear and what one should not. Besides all this, some people say that it is threat to peace/security and it is linked with terrorism but this argument of them too is flawed because most of terrorist attacks occurred in World in broad day light that too with open faces. The dress of the terrorists varies from one place to another and they don’t weari any particular type of clothes. That does not mean we have to ban all clothes/outifts in World.
Finally, I conclude by saying that veil emancipates women from the clutches of West/Europe where women are merely seen as sex dolls exploded for beautiful materials like selling a car or even selling an underwear or chocolate. It is this piece of cloth that honours and protects women. It honours women and tells them that their body belongs only to them and nobody else. This is real liberation or freedom.
— The author is a Post-graduate in Islamic Studies with JRF. He can be reached at: [email protected]