speaking, the majority of scholars consider the covering of
the face for an adult Muslim female with the face-veil or
niqâb in the presence of non-related adult males as
a religiously praiseworthy action, whereas a minority considered
it an obligatory act. Thus, for a Muslim woman to remove her
veil in the presence of ‘foreign’ men would be considered
abominable at the very least and at its most serious, totally
Law recognizes that the niqâb can be removed for various
civil needs such as that maybe suggested by Mr Straw, particularly
the Hanbali school of legal thought as confirmed by
the eminent Jurist Ibn Qudamah in his masterpiece al-Mughni.
Muslim women have the choice in various scenarios to remove
the veil for a certain need as detailed in the legal texts
yet her desire to not become too friendly or involved with
‘foreign’ males shouldn’t leave at least other female members
of the community in despair. Indeed, maybe one should debate
the great problem that non-related men exactly have if certain
Muslim women don’t wish to develop relationships with them,
even in the most insignificant sense. Does one sense male
insecurity here? Hurt male pride? Now that’s a thought.
people enquire on the exact wisdom behind such a piece of
clothing which is so at odds to what they would normally wear.
From the benefits of this ensuing debate is that finally the
public at large have realised that Muslim men are not sit
ting at home with a whip, forcing their women to cover their
selves up but rather it is a decision based upon ones deep
spiritual convictions to the concept of modesty and respect
and above all, a sign of ones complete devotion to the Law
of God. This, significantly, therefore takes the matter to
the theological frame of reference and hence outside the rationale
of human beings, something which is often forgotten in debates
course, the Muslims are not alone in acting upon such a concept.
The fascinating and deeply spiritual Jewish concept of Tzniut
expresses the same sentiment; an attempt to refocus people
from concentrating on the external appearance of a person
but rather make sincere necessary contact with the inner self
by encouraging modest dress and the covering of the hair and
face even, exhibited most vividly in the Bedeken during
marriage ceremonies; here, the groom brings down the veil
over his bride's face, reminiscent of Rebekka's covering her
face with her veil upon seeing Isaac before marriage as per
Jewish Scripture. The veiling symbolizes her duty to live
up to Jewish ideals of modesty and reminds others that in
her status as a married woman she will be absolutely unapproachable
by other men. According to Rabbinical teaching, “The covering
of the face symbolises the modesty, dignity and chastity which
characterises the virtue of Jewish womanhood.”
one might possibly excuse Jack Straw for his rather ignorant
assertion that not being able to make full use of a woman’s
cheeks and lips during conversation could inhibit better and
deeper understanding. One social commentator has suggested
that Mr. Straw would do well to take a few lessons from his
blind constituents in how they are able to move forward with
their inter-human interaction. May I also suggest that Mr.
Straw, as a follower of the Jewish faith himself, try and
gain a better understanding of Tzniut first before
asking Muslims to change their own religious convictions.
us not forget the other great religion that used to proudly
control much of the Western and Eastern World: Christianity.
The Christian directive towards men and women dressing decently
and modestly is something well documented and indeed most
visibly demonstrated by Christian nuns. More relevantly to
the issue of covering the hair, neck and face, followers of
the more orthodox Eastern Churches will be most accustomed
to Epanokamelavkion and other forms of covering for
nuns and monks. Indeed, the female emphasis on maintaining
such an external appearance draws it’s strength from King
David in the book of Psalms, who states, "the dignity of
the daughter of a king is her inwardness" – something
remarkably similar to the Islamic concept of modesty or hayâ’
and the Jewish practice of Tzniut.
course, living in the UK today, the Secularist lobby are rather
indifferent to the justifications of religious groups if they
go against their personal viewpoints and likewise react furiously
to any suggestions by Muslims (or indeed others) that a female’s
state of undress as one witnesses so often in society
could be contributing to the moral and spiritual breakdown
in law and order; they refuse to accept that a radical change
in society’s approach to sexuality and male-female interaction
such as that offered by the hijâb and niqâb
is anything but an oppression and an insult to females. Fair
enough, that’s their opinion - Muslims criticise it but that’s
about as far they go in the debate.
British Muslims should leave said debate to their Christian
friends to continue with as they quietly protect their values
and beliefs, watching and waiting in the sidelines as others
espouse a defence without the normal Islamophobic connotations
attached. As the popular Christian author John Piper writes,
“Many women (and men) today … judge [freedom] on the basis
of immediate sensations or unrestrained license or independence.
But true freedom takes God’ s reality and God’s purpose for
creation into account and seeks to fit smoothly into God’s
good design. Freedom does include doing what we want to do.
But the mature and wise woman does not seek this freedom by
bending reality to fit her desires. She seeks it by being
transformed in the renewal of her desires to fit in with God’s
perfect will (Romans 12:2). The greatest freedom is found
in being so changed by God’s spirit that you can do what you
love to do and know that it conforms to the design of God
and leads to life and glory.”
Church, like all great religious establishments, not only
identifies the problem but suggests the solution according
to scripture. Their call for “discreet behaviour ” and “modest
modes of clothing” is a fair response, based upon Proverbs
11:22, "As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair
woman which is without discretion."
is no need for a Muslim voice to reply back to Jack Straw,
fueling all the puppets straining at the leash to scream at
the Muslims, “Why is it that whenever we question something
you do in your religion, you’re always complaining!?” The
Muslim community is wasting its time trying to suggest that
possibly, just possibly, the irresponsible indecent exposure
in society today by women exacerbates the sexually aggravated
crimes and behaviour we witness today spiraling out of control.
Why should the Muslims be so ‘predictable’ when Christian
authorities put forward a response to the age-old “to lust
or not to lust” argument. As one Catholic commentator replies:
when you pull on that tight sweater that amplifies your bosom
and reveals your bare midriff, are you putting your Christian
brothers before yourself? When you sit down and let your skirt
ride up to reveal your thighs and underclothing, are you helping
your Christian brothers "keep a covenant with [their] eyes"
(Job 31:1)? The man who "looketh on a woman to lust after
her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart,"
according to our Lord in Matthew 5:28. Are you laying a trap
for this lust and adultery by the way you dress? You may respond,
"Well, I am not responsible for the way boys think. That is
their fault if they can’t keep their minds off my body." Dear
sister, you are grievously mistaken. "Such is the way of an
adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith,
I have done no wickedness" (Proverbs 30:20).
isn’t it when it comes from the mouth of someone other than
placing these arguments aside, one must also try to understand
where secular humanist/feminist opposition to the veil stems
from. ‘Defenders of social justice’ might be excused for their
opposition due to the use of the veil in ancient times of
the Assyrian and Greek nations where only the noble women
would be allowed to wear such dress as a distinguishing feature.
One could quite fairly, although utterly incorrectly perceive
the Muslims playing a class game with their veils in light
of this historical context
it is quite possible that some might have confused the Islamic
basis for the face-veil with the basis offered by the Bible
for the covering of a Christian woman’ s hair, which as mentioned
in Corinthians 11: 3-10, “…A man ought not to cover his
head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman
is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but
woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman
for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman
ought to have a sign of authority on her head". One doesn’t
believe that this is the case any more with modern day Christian
women who dress modestly and it certainly isn’t the case with
Muslim women who neither look to attain noble status out of
arrogance to those in a state of undress neither cover their
faces as a sign of a male’s authority over them; rather it
is in order to conceal their beauty from anyone who may possibly
have mischief in his heart, and to enable her to maintain
her modesty and honour; the Qur’an states in 33:59, “O
Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women
of the believers to draw their cloaks all over their bodies.
That will be better, that they should be known so as not to
be annoyed (by others).”
fairness then, it is largely the irreligious Secularist section
of modern society that has a real problem with all religious
directives whether Christian, Judaic or Islamic, and naturally
the niqâb provides a perfectly convenient concept to
attack, sorry “question” – for indeed the best form of defence
of ones ideology (and thus for example, the right to publicly
wear as little as possible) is to attack the opposition. Muslim
female adults, Christian nuns and Jewish married women are
here lies the conundrum. As British citizens living in Secular
Britain today, we have signed up to a new standard of human
rights – a set of guidelines that protects peoples’ freedom
of speech and freedom of belief as per classic secular humanist
ideology, different only from religiously driven human rights
in that every person’s idea, opinion and belief is protected
irrespective of the opinion of “God” or the “Religious directive.”
that is the case, then surely the Muslim woman just as any
other British citizen has her full right to wear exactly what
she wishes to wear. It can be questioned and even criticized
by others from society but that’s as far as it should go.
Muslims cannot expect any less especially when they also,
alongside their Christian, Judaic and other religious colleagues,
criticise the huge rise in indecent and immoral clothing practiced
in our societies today - Muslims in particular feel totally
aggrieved at this state of affairs yet tolerate it patiently.
This is what we have all signed up for living in Britain in
the 20th Century and we either accept it or look for the exit
door. This should be a debate about civil liberties but it
is in danger of becoming nothing but sheer bigotry and possibly
even racism through the back door.
Muslims as well as Jews and Christians wish to preserve their
honour in their own ways, the law of the land insists they
be allowed to do so. Be critical, but respect their right.
Muslims will also be critical no doubt of the converse, but
have accepted their right as citizens of this country.
this debate should teach us at the very least is that community
relations and their success are not based upon “chance meetings
in the street” as suggested by Straw or men wanting to improve
better relations with their community by befriending all other
women. Rather, people must recognize that if they wish for
better community relations, people have to make an effort
and get to know people properly, personally and sincerely.
For anyone to use the other party’ s niqâb as an excuse
for their inability to develop a relationship with someone
is not only ignorant, but rather pitiful at the same time.
To then incite the community to react against innocent women,
creating in the very least a tense atmosphere for a woman
in niqâb and at the very worst physical abuse and attack
as has been witnessed in recent times, only goes to prove
the hypocrisy our ‘tolerant’ and ‘multi-cultural’ country
is drowning in.
Muslims should ‘get out’ and ‘go back to where they
came from’, back to their own houses in their own country
- Great Britain - rather unfortunately for the bigots. It
seems that the only people who are forcing Muslim women into
their homes under a real oppressive veil, a veil of hostility
and fear, are those wanting to discriminate against them according
to their personal prejudices under the false pretence of trying
to promote interaction, integration and community relations.
How much are these social ‘experts’ actually helping to solve
this very real problem?
that’s what I would call a debate.