Niqab Issue: The Illusion of Freedom

Posted by on Mar 29th, 2010 and filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry


A MUSLIM sister was recently expelled from a French language course for the second time in Quebec for wearing the niqab. Western countries preach the right of personal freedom yet when faced with accommodating Muslims, they renege on the very principals upon which their society was built. Using only Islam as the basis, we should engage in dialogue with those who criticize Islamic opinions and rules and reveal the inherent contradictions in Western-secular societies. Furthermore, we should invite them to worship Allah (swt) on the basis of the Islamic Aqeedah by proving the certainty of His existence and message – the Quran.

Earlier this month, the Canadian press reported that a Muslim woman living in Quebec had been expelled from a government sponsored language program last November after she refused to remove her niqab. This year, she once again enrolled in a government sponsored language course at another school only to have a teacher report her to the provincial authorities. As a result, a civil servant along with an Arab translator met her at the school and gave her the ultimatum of attending without the niqab or to be expelled once again. Yolande James, Quebec’s Immigration minister, said: “There is no ambiguity on this question: If you want to [attend] our classes, if you want to integrate in Quebec society, here our values are that we want to see your face.”

Muslims being singled out and put under pressure is a recurring phenomenon:

  • France – In January of this year, the country banned the wearing of the burka while receiving assistance from any public service such as hospitals, schools and public transportation.
  • Switzerland – In November of last year after a referendum on banning the construction of minarets, a constitutional amendment was approved to support the initiative.
  • Canada – In September 2008, during a hearing in Ontario, a sexual assault victim said that she did not want to remove her niqab when testifying. After hearing her explanation, the judge ruled that he did not find her “religious belief … that strong” and ordered her to remove the veil when she was in the witness box.

Much Ado about Nothing
Often, the issues that are chosen to be brought to the forefront for public awareness are of little impact on society at large. For example, the above incidents have a marginal impact despite the amount of media coverage received. Recently in Quebec, Medicare applicants have been required to remove their niqab for their photo ID. Yet among the 146,000 applicants, from 2008-2009, only 10 clients, or 0.007%, asked for special accommodations because they wore a niqab. In France, the banning of the burka affected only 0.003% of the entire French population, yet the issue grabbed headlines and was made to seem as if a significant portion of the population in France wore the niqab. Finally, in Switzerland the motion to ban the construction of minarets was also insignificant as there are only 4 masajids in the entire country. With such negligible impact on the greater society, why would politicians and the media focus their energies on providing mass coverage?

  1. To seek electoral votes: Often politicians manipulate the populations’ fear of immigrants and their effect on society and norms to achieve electoral support. For example, the Liberal party is under pressure from Parti Québécois – the opposition party – to be tougher on those who display differences. As a result, we see media coverage about a niqabi sister getting expelled from school.
  2. To create pressure on Muslims to abandon parts of the Ahkam of Islam: Muslims are a minority in the West so putting a spotlight on aspects that are clearly from Islam forces Muslims to take a stance – with the aim to make them leave the rules of Islam and adopt those of secularism. For example, according to the Globe and Mail, Mr. Bourque, the teacher of the Niqabi sister in the Quebec controversy commented that “this college program has helped a handful of women stop wearing veils over the past 10 years.”

Western countries such as Canada boast of a society that values the freedoms of all individuals. Yet when we examine the cases mentioned above, we notice an inherent contradiction between the rights and freedoms “promised” within secular countries and what actually happens on the ground.

Secularism and its Contradictions
The “claimed” and “promised” right of personal freedom has been violated in all of these cases as the secular system is inherently flawed and full of contradictions. The major flaw of the system is that it makes man the legislator. Man uses his own mind to judge what is right and what is wrong. Since man is prone to disparity, differences, contradictions and being influenced by the environment in which he lives; he is therefore liable to make rules and laws that will be unjust and flawed, leading to misery. Such laws change and shift according to the whims and desires of man as he can change or alter them to fit his desires. This was seen in the case of the Muslims that were captured by American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. To circumvent giving the POW’s their rights, the prisoners were reclassified as “enemy combatants.” As such, we saw methods of cruel and unusual punishment meted out against the Muslims in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram and countless other dungeons around the world. Today, Muslims are being singled out for the political gain of politicians who care for nothing more than attaining positions of power as is clearly present in the calls for the removal of hijab and niqab in public life. If that was not enough, calls are being made for Muslims in the West to abandon parts of the Akham of Islam in order to become members of Western (secular) societies. If we do not do it willingly, it is often enforced upon us through arbitrary laws and legislation. Allah (swt) revealed:

“They wish that you should compromise (in religion out of courtesy) with them, so they (too) would compromise with you.”
[TMQ 68:9]
Not the First Time
Reflecting on the life of the Prophet (saw) we can see that what the Muslims are going through today is not unique. Rather, the Prophet (saw) and the Sahabah (ra) were put through similar trials and pressures.

When the Prophet (saw) began to recount the events of Al-Isra wal Miraj, the kuffar quickly used this as an opportunity to pressure the Muslims to challenge their belief in the Prophethood of Muhammad (saw) and the message of Islam. When questioned about whether he believed in RasulAllah (saw)’s claim, Abu Bakr (ra) said, “If he said that, then he is truthful. I believe him”. In another instance, when Allah (swt) commanded the Muslims to change the direction of their Qibla, the unbelievers were again quick to challenge the Muslims’ claim, stating that earlier prophets had always faced the direction of Jerusalem. Allah (swt) revealed:

“ … And We made the Qiblah which you used to face, only to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels. Indeed it was great (heavy) except for those whom Allah guided. And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost. Truly, Allah is full of kindness, the Most Merciful towards mankind.”
[TMQ 2:143]

The aim in both instances was to pressure the Muslims to abandon both the Prophet (saw) and the Deen of Islam. However, the Sahabah (ra) stood firm and their belief in Allah (swt), in RasulAllah (saw) and in all of Islam did not waver. Today, Muslims are challenged to defend their ideas in the face of criticism and ridicule or face the danger of abandoning some of the Akham of Islam. We must behave as the Sahabah (ra) did, after the events of Isra wal Miraj and the changing of the Qibla, by adhering to Islam in the same way while resisting the call to abandon some of the Akham of Islam.

Take it to them
When RasulAllah (saw) was challenged, he did not fall into the trap of using an incorrect basis to defend Islam nor did he compromise on his belief or in the Ahkam of Islam. Rather he went to the point of challenging the disbelievers’ basis on which they were making their claims. For example, the Kafir ‘Utbah Ibn Rabi’ah once said: “If what Muhammad (saw) says to his Companions about Paradise and its bliss is true, we will surely be better than them in the Hereafter as we are better than them in the life of this world.” Allah (swt) revealed:

“Shall We then treat the Muslims like the Mujrimun (criminals, polytheists and disbelievers)? What is the matter with you? How do you judge?”
[TMQ 68:35-36]
In the same manner, when Islam is attacked or Muslims are challenged in their implementation of Islamic rules, we should not allow ourselves to become defensive by attempting to defend Islam on an incorrect basis, such as the charter of rights and freedoms or the human rights code, as these concepts came from those who attack Islam and thus we would only be falling into their trap of adopting their ideas, instead of adopting ideas that emanate from Islam. Moreover, these secular principles are invoked and applied in a hypocritical manner, like the Niqab issue has demonstrated. We should instead, as Allah (swt) has told us, call attention to the question of what determines the correct basis for forming the ideas, emotions and laws of society. Is it secularism which says that Allah (swt) has no role in life and leaves man free to be ruled by his whims and desires? Or is it Islam which says that Allah (swt) should determine how man proceeds in life? We should then highlight the flaws and inherent contradictions of the secular system. We should show that it is incapable of dealing with the constant changing reality of man as it emanates from his own weak and limited mind. In contrast the rules of Islam come from the One who created man, Allah (swt) and are therefore not bound by any such limitation – who better to understand man’s reality than the One who created us.

Furthermore, we should illustrate how the Ahkam Shariah are commands from Allah (swt) and that believing in Him is not based upon blind faith nor on a shaky foundation. Rather the belief in Allah (swt) is a rational conclusion based on a deep study of the world around us – just as Ibrahim (as) had concluded:

“When he saw the sun rising in splendor, he said: “This is my Lord; this is the greatest (of all).” But when the sun set, he said: “O my people! I am indeed free from your (guilt) of giving partners to Allah.”
[TMQ 6:78]

We should also show how the Quran is the eternal miracle by Allah (swt) based on the challenge to mankind to reproduce a chapter in style and meaning:

“And if you are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down (i.e. the Qur’an) to Our slave, then produce a Surah (chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses besides Allah, if you are truthful.”
[TMQ 2:23]

By directing the discussion in this manner, we have an opportunity to present the Aqeedah of Islam and demonstrate how it is correct as it convinces the rational mind of its correctness and recognizes the human need to worship the Creator – Allah (swt) alone with no partners.

May Allah (swt) allow us to stand firm on the Haqq unwavering and uncompromising as RasulAllah (saw) and the Sahabah (ra) did. May He allow this Ummah to once again be the Sirajeen Muneera (guiding light) it once was.

“Oh you who believe! If you help (in the cause of) Allah, He will help you, and make your foothold firm.”
[TMQ 47:7]

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