Hijab strife in a Muslim family in Canada sealed the fate of 16 years young girl few days ago. Gruesome murder of playful Pakistani Canadian kid in the hands of her father sends the poor soul to her grave and shock waves to the Canadian society.
But there is more to it:
is Islam for mullah – Women who do not wear hijab are not virtuous.
Hijab is not Islam for Muslim apologetics – Hijab is only a cultural relic.
And, some liberated Muslims proclaim that hijab is a sign of exploitation of women in the name of religion.
Oh, yes … Whatever the debate, whatever the arguments … a young girl is dead who should not have died. The father who should have nurtured the child has, in fact, strangled her to death. I lament and wonder why anymore young girls have to struggle for the last gasp.
Arguments among Muslims on such issues like hijab are very clever but unfortunate. Specific issues like murder of a young Muslim girl because of not-wearing hijab are refuted by mullahs and right wing Muslim apologetics by framing the issue in general and cultural terms – Islam does not allow this. Anybody who behaves like this is a criminal and is not a Muslim. Hijab-murder is cultural, things happen in lots of other cultures too. Domestic abuse exists in every society.
I listen and say, fine!!
Bewildered I ask a broader question, but why does moral-violence happens more often among Muslims than their counterpart Catholics in Canada? They try to devalue my question by downplaying broad patterns of violence in Muslim societies and point me the specifics where such and such Muslim women excelled while wearing hijab. They also tell me that Hijab is also good for women’s safety. We should understand that hijab is not a road-block to achievement. We should also beware that there is a western-conspiracy against Muslims’ identity. The west wishes to subdue Muslims by depriving them of their real identity (as if it is the duty of women only to safeguard Muslim identity). This is always the crucial argument bordering on widespread paranoia of identity.
I am not convinced because I think Islam does not exist in a vaccuum. It operates in the lives of real human beings. For whatever it is worth, Islamic ideology is a reflection of its agents - The Muslims. I have hard time understanding any of those arguments.
Those arguments are circular and contradictory. Loud debates, passionate arguments and entrenched positions overlook few critical questions. What needs to change: Islamic scriptures, ideological dictums or social-values?
Nobody can change scriptures like Koran, Bible or Gita. I am not sure if ever in the history one religious ideology has completely won over another ideology. I doubt if ever cultures have changed only by preaching ever since Sermon on the Mount to daily sermonic TV shows. Those who bank on providing creative interpretations of Koran and other scriptures are also living in a dreamland. Things do not stick that easily. Only social-values can change.
Individuals and societies are not real blank-slates where it is easy to inscribe anything. Humans are part and parcel of societies with wants, desires, concepts, contradictions and history. Muslims are part of social fabric woven in religion and culture, patterned with real distresses of life herein and embroidery of heavenly rewards hereafter. However we cut it, we come to witness that economics and culture have a strong bearing on values and behaviors.
Ideological under-grid needs fertile soil to shape values and personal behaviors. Winds of change are howling all around and orthodox and traditional Muslims are in troubled with changes. There is no less trouble for cultural, liberated, moderate and progressive Muslims. They are also psychologic weaklings for they cannot liberate themselves from irrationality of dogmatic thinking. Their beliefs are religious but behaviors are that of social convenience. They have no solid ideological footings.
Who knows when cultural Muslims might find it more convenient to behave rigidly while still living by their ‘principle of intellectual-convenience’? Actually, they are either disingenuous or confused because they wish to preserve religious-irrationality without giving up claims on religious culture. Whatever the reasoning, cherry-picking religious doctrine is a behavior of convenience, if not opportunism. Nobody knows for how long they will live by ‘liberated convenience’? Til the time an adversity hits them, perhaps?
However, the idea that societies can be engineered by revelations is a religious conception and is deeply troubling for pluralistic societies. Social evolution brings cultural change. It is never stable without existential security of economics. It is a dynamic human process, not static culture of revelations.
After Kant who said, “No man may compel me to be happy in his way??, humans should be proud to say that nobody has the right to dictate morality and nobody has the right to legislate virtues. While maintaining liberty, it is the job of education to teach limits of social behavior. Rights ought to be legislated, not virtues or sins.
For Islamic fundamentalists, Hijab is a religious virtue. It is a social-value for those who are culturally inclined. These things do not exist in isolation and independent of each other. Change in personal virtues and social values is a generational process. Economic realities are fundamental to gross root cultural change in a long run. That is an academic understanding and it has its due worth but here is a real situation: The issue of hijab and coercion.
There is no problem with Hijab being a matter of personal statement or cultural identity but there is a problem when hijab becomes a virtue in historic perspective among Muslims. Having said that lets face the reality, Hijab as a moral value when enforced with coercion becomes a symbol of women subjugation among Muslims whether its underpinning is religious obligation, culture or history. It has to change and the time for change has arrived.
If religion does not subscribe to hijab then its time to tell mullah to stop sermonizing virtues of that tiny piece of head-cover; if culture imposes it onto only one gender of society, it is sexism and gender discrimination – Stop it. If hijab is in the way of any education for new generation then the time is ripe to cast it aside so that the newer generation should be able to avail opportunities of pluralist societies of the future.
If crimes are being committed in the name of hijab, then its time to stand against hijab and the time is now. It is an open question whether Hijab be legislated against everywhere to prevent oppression and inequality or should there be a legislation against those who provide convoluted justifications for Hijab-cimes? But, no kid has to die for any irrational religious morality, silly cultural virtue or worthless social-value. Whatever the motive for wearing hijab, it is a constant reminder of history of female subjugation and inequality.
Pluralism is the future of the world. Muslim will perish upholding Hijab and other worthless-values. Future does not survive in the relics of historic past and it should not be the future destiny of Muslim women either. The time for change has arrived for Muslims in Canada before they are trampled over by the forces of change.
And, not to forget! Revolting against vestige of an old custom – wearing hijab, an innocent girl has been strangled to death. She should not have died.(Tahir Qazi)