Burqa/Niqāb ban in Europe and North America, freedom of religion or political issue?

“The Niqāb is a tradition, it has no connection with religion” – Dr. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi (1928-2010), Grand Sheikh Al-Azhar University Cairo


In last two decades major issue in developed countries is immigration, integration of immigrants in new society and cooperation between society and immigrant community. Integration and cooperation are depended on each immigrant or their community but also on state law’s and regulations. Last few years brought to our attention Muslim communities, their way of life practicing their own religion and questions regarding their freedom of religion and expression of Islam.

There is no anyone who doesn’t have a chance to see burqa/niqāb or veil on faces of Muslim women’s in countries of Arab World or Persian Gulf. Moreover this piece of clothing is much more related to the Saudi Arabia, UAE, Pakistan, Afghanistan than to Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Morocco or Egypt. Anyone who knows anything about Islam will connect niqāb with those societies who declare themselves as followers of “right” Islam introduced through Muhammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab’s movement. Abd-al-Wahhab’s followers are usually introduced to the rest of the World as “Radical Islamists” and their are correlated to militant and radical political groups. Beside followers of Wahhabi movement there is also several radical groups who are followers of Sayyid Qutb’s ideology which is also described as “radical”. On list of his followers we will discover Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida. Both movements introduced burqa/niqāb as part of women’s clothing as “shield” from men’s eyes and as some sort of protection from adultery.

Burqa/Niqāb is highly controversial issue all over the Islamic World and is also controversial issue in Western World since late 19th century since Islam had a first contacts with secularism and modernization processes. Today we’re faced with political actions towards this issue and each society tries to find a best way to ban or allow burqa/niqāb in everyday life. Since 2008 and start of discussion in France we saw several different way’s of dealing with this issue. Spain, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Greece face themselves with accusations for Islamophobia and intolerance towards visible minorities. Two weeks ago Quebec’s Provincial Government led by Liberal PM Jean Charest introduce Bill 94 which purpose is to ban burqa/niqāb from all governmental institutions, educational institutions under governmental control and public important institutions and locations. Kathleen Wiel, Justice Minister in Quebec’s Government, explain to the public that this Bill 94 has a purpose to improve security in Quebec and to improve identification of each and every person in mentioned institutions.

Shekikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi Is burqa/niqāb issue of political importance or religious issue? If we accept fatwa issued by late Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi spiritual leader of largest and oldest Sunni University in the World, Cairo’s Al-Azhar, answer on this question is “No”. There is no political and religious issues, there is only issue of tradition over a particular way of life in individual society. When I’m walking through Surrey in Canada’s British Columbia or Chicago or Munich in Germany I’m able to see so many young and old modern and traditional Muslim women’s with their colorful headscarves some of them in jeans and modern clothing’s some of them in traditional dresses but more important I can their faces and see how proud they are on their own faith and chance to live that live Islam. When they walked through mall’s, shopping stores, Universities you can how other had respect for them and their religion without any offences towards their clothing or Islam. But when your faced with Muslim women with completely covered face, specially if your born and raised in society with strong connection and rich heritage of Islam as myself, you can feel some sort of awkward feeling. Maybe is better to say you can feel yourself in uncomfortable situation. In those moments your not dealing with their religion or their faith your dealing with their unusual tradition and that’s not political or religious issue.

Women’s who are practicing burqa/niqāb are “invisible” minority in Islam, they’re coming from less than 10% of overall Muslim World population. If we want to exchange this situation in the World we need to exchange our way of presenting Islam. If we had a problem with burqa/niqāb we need to introduce new immigration rules, not ban laws, and to explain to those women’s that we are not comfortable with their clothing. We need to present to the society successful Muslim women’s, young and old, educated, with established careers and families, we need to represent the best of the best  in our societies and to help them on their way to successful and bright full future, also that will help us to stay out of controversies and to keep out of our society those ones who are not prepared to include themselves in.         

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