The increasing number of cases where the European Courts and state institutions have granted employers the right to ban the hijab in the workplace shows that Europe has taken the veil off its muscular secularism, writes Hatib Umar.
In a recent string of legislation, the European Union (EU) and its individual states have explicitly enacted measures to ban the hijab.
In March 2017, the EU, through its highest legal courts, declared that employers can ban outward displays of “any political, philosophical or religious sign” that they deem fit. This ruling was a direct response to the legal plea on behalf of Muslim women who faced difficulties or threats of termination from their workplaces for wearing the hijab.
In February 2018, Ofsted backed the banning of hijab amongst young British school girls to promote “cohesion” and prevent the corruption of “impressionable minds with extremist ideology” — with Germany and Australia attempting to follow suit.
In March 2018, in response to a Muslim legal trainee’s plea to wear the hijab in the courtroom, the German court passed a law forbidding legal officials from wearing the hijab or any “symbols that could elicit doubts about their independence, neutrality or commitment to the rule of law.”
Behind the seemingly general language of these rulings, the European Courts have sent a clear message that the practice of hijab is only valid in so much that it conforms to values secular liberalism.
As much as some would hesitate to admit, the constant tension between secularism and Islam builds from the clashing roots of the two worldviews. Fundamentally, secularism dictates that there is a separation between church and state, which really means that God has no power or place outside of the confines of individuals or superficial beliefs. Therefore, the expression of any way of life is reduced to the most trivial superficial displays or “symbols” that fit nicely within the secular framework of individual freedom.
In stark contrast, the Islam creed is built on a specific set of values and principles, which establishes that Allah (swt) is the only deity worthy of worship, that Muhammad (saw) is his final messenger, and that the revelation therefrom is the basis for all thoughts regarding man, life and universe. Therefore, a Muslim woman wears the hijab from a conviction of this set of beliefs, and as an indication that Allah’s (swt) commands is supreme over all else. At heart, this is what is unacceptable to secular liberalism and the status quo, as it wishes for the practice of hijab to also be manifested through its framework as a mere freedom that can be given or taken away — as exemplified by the court rulings — and not as a command from God that one chooses to submit to.
“And never will the Jews or the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion. Say, ‘Indeed, the guidance of Allah is the [only] guidance.’ If you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, you would have against Allah no protector or helper.” [Quran 2:120]
So what does this all mean?
It is evidently apparent that well-intended efforts to seek positive changes within such a political system have been unsuccessful to date. The ideals of “freedom” which secularism claims to uphold are selectively applied in order to legitimise the system itself while simultaneously working to dilute Muslims from their Islamic identity. As Allah (swt) reveals to us in the ayah above, the disbelievers will never approve of the believers until they conform completely to them, and accordingly, the approval we seek and the protection we rely on must be from Allah (swt) alone.
Therefore, the method in which we choose to see the world, define ourselves, and seek our protection must be from Allah (swt), as exemplified by the best of examples:
“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often.” [Quran 33:21]
When facing a society hostile to the truth, catered to the rich and powerful, formidable and seemingly unshakable, and with a competing ideology, the Muslims must do what the Messenger of Allah (saw) and the early believers did: stick uncompromisingly to the truth and work diligently to establish a way of life ordained by Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saw).
Accordingly, our response to the hijab ban and increasing hostility from secular liberalism is to hold tighter to the rope of Allah (swt) and to cement Islam within ourselves, our families, and our communities.
Hatib Umar is a Mechanical Engineer by profession and a striving writer. You can follow him on Twitter @HatibUmar.