Critical Commentary: The Conflict With Hijab

Posted on November 9, 2012 by

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We are all aware of the traditional Muslim dress worn by Muslim women. Indeed, it’s hard not to notice it when you see a Muslim woman in the streets, being as it is drastically different from western cultures. The scarf these women wear around their heads is called a hijab, and is worn as a sign of modesty, privacy, and morality that holds to their religious beliefs. “Muslims take a relativist approach to hijab. They believe that the commandment to maintain modesty must be interpreted with regard to the surrounding society. What is considered modest or daring in one society might not be considered so in another. It is important, they say, for believers to wear clothing that communicates modesty and reserve”.

For a while now, there have been instances where the wearing of these religious headscarves have been challenged in certain environments, such as in schools. Issues like this are not uncommon, and it consistently provides a challenge to several societal customs. For example, in France a law was passed in 2004 that banned the wearing of any item that displayed their religious affiliation, which includes the wearing of the hijab.

One of the more recent issues of today comes from an article covered by Worldwide Religious News. The article explains a draft law that was proposed in Saudi Arabia that would have allowed women to keep on their hijabs during security checks. Instead, they would carry identification based off of fingerprints rather than photographs. Yet, the law was not passed. As was stated in the article, “The Shura Council, a consultative body appointed by the king, rejected the plan on Sunday, although it agreed that female security staff should carry out checks on women, the newspaper reported”.

Although it seems unfair for the law not to be passed as it was drafted out of respect towards the women, I find it unnecessary since the security checks would be carried out by other women (as was stated in the quote from the article). It is not against their beliefs to be seen by other women, only men (outside of their relations). For that reason, it is only logical that the law was not carried out. If it were, unnecessary money would have needed to be spent to account for the new fingerprint identification required.

Insistence on keeping to the more moderate dress codes advised in the Quran is mainly kept up by the more conservative Muslims. It is also these people that are preventing major reforms in woman rights in countries such as Saudi Arabia, “the government has pressed for women to have better education and job opportunities, and will allow them to vote in future municipal elections. But conservative forces in the kingdom have continued to push back against reforms”.

Even though I consider a press towards these reforms as a good thing, it should always be up to the individual whether or not she will wear a hijab. In that way, the passing of the law would have been more appropriate being as it would give the woman a choice to remove their hijab or not. Yet, it would have still been wildly inconvenient for the replacement of all the identification and just made everything a lot more complicated.

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Posted in: Islam