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Responding to an Attack in the Hijab - Posted on The Independent in Ireland

Posted June 4, 2008

To: Fergal Leonard


I would like to point out some serious flaws in your recent attack on the “hijab” or head covering worn by Muslim women.

Islam, like Christianity, is a cultural practice.

This is completely incorrect. Last I checked both Islam and Christianity are religions; both having indigenous and organic manifestations in different times and places with people of different races, ethnicities and nationalities. Please see the following for correct definitions of religion and culture.

The wearing of the hijab is a cultural practice that developed in the Middle East as protection from windblown sand.

Please site your references. As I understand it pre-Islamic women were known tol dress in a number of ways and although head coverings where worn by all to protect from sand, sun and wind it is known that preceding the command in the Qur’an for the women to cover, in the manner prescribed by God, that even the hair of the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had been seen. That would lead me to conclude that the practice of the head covering, as commanded by God, is a religious and not a culture practice.

The blend of religion and culture of Islam and the Middle East allows honour killings (Iraq),

Here I would agree with you to some extent. There is in some cases an obfuscation of religious versus cultural practices. This futher perpetuated by media. However, honor killings are not from the Islamic law and any honest inquiry into the laws of Islam would allow an honest researcher to conclude this.

However, I would also conclude from your statement that you have not taken it upon yourself to make a distinction between the laws of Islam and cultural practices of Muslims. In this way, your analysis is neither scholarly nor authoritative.

it allows criminal punishment through amputation of limbs (Saudi Arabia),

Yes, as a capital punishment for specific crimes the amputation of the hand is prescribed by God for the felonious thief. But how does this differ from capital punishments in Western or Democratic lands? Isn’t electrocution, lethal injection, and hanging punishments for capital crimes in the US? Or is it when these are done in the name of democracy or the country and not God that they become honorable?

it allows people to believe that if they fight for their god they are justified in beheading journalists and captured soldiers (Iraq, Afghanistan).

I would suppose that this would be a far cry from dying for ones country? Is it that you propose that a person places more value on their country or God? In any case, if the fighting is in fact a legitimate war that can be justified through the Islamic legal sources - then it is legitimate. In war, if you have agents, spies and provocateurs that are working on behalf of the enemy then they are threat. Similarly would law regarding the captives of war. Unfortunately, I am not aware of the laws regarding this and will remain silent.

Tell me! How are prisoners of war treated by Western countries and the US specifically?

As for fighting to protect one family, land, property or self then to go beyond the bounds and kill innocents then obviously this would not be something allowed in the religion of Islam.

We have just seen eight people killed in a suicide bomb attack on the Danish embassy in Pakistan.

This is sad indeed. Has it been concluded that this was done by a group of hijab-wearing women?

Cultures have not been equal through time.

Human sacrifice, slavery and Prima Nocta are cultural relics we now reject.

Like it or not, the hijab is a symbol of a culture that promotes the murder of innocents and mutilation (in a direct manner that cannot be compared to the accidental killings of warfare). The culture of the hijab is against the liberal principles of Western culture.

Sadly, I fail to see the correlation between the hijab and that acts you describe. If anything it might be reasoned that the hijab is a symbol of oppression like many Westerners like to think. Has it not been Muslim women that have been the victims of these honor killings and mutilations? Far from it would it be to say that the hijab, of all things, represents terrorism. Wouldn’t a more likely “symbol” of terrorism be the turban or the beard? Your reasoning is faulty and appears to be more of a bigoted attempt to deny Muslim women the freedom of their religious expression in the liberal democracy that you so love. Where’s your sense of democracy and liberality?

Islam has no equivalent of “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”.

Any theocratic culture, including radical Islam, with Sharia law as its aim, is inferior to democratic culture.

This is hyperbole and provides no rational analysis of Shariah or democracy. As a matter of fact, what credentials do you hold that would allow you to speak as an expert on either? My guess, based off the weakness of your analysis of this issue would lead me to believe that you are merely a layman and hold no credentials to speak as expert on Democracy, Shariah or political affairs in general. You do more harm than good conjecturing from a position of ignorance.

Ireland has an opportunity to take an early stand against a culture that threatens the West with violence and aggression.

Ireland has an opportunity to uphold the democratic values of freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, diversity, liberty and good will even though the tast might be bitter to you. I thought you were for democracy?

What threatens the West is; hatred, bigotry, racism and arrogance. One needs a serious historical reality check to contextualize the issues we see emerging in the media. Islam is no more a threat to the West than the Muslims that have been in the US prior to and since its inception. How do you account for over 400 of years of Islamic presence in America without incident? How do you account for the spread of Islam in Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Pakistan? If you want to look for a “cultural Islam” for which to point fingers, then the least you can do is look for the larger majority-Muslim countries for a significant sampling. Otherwise you should ask yourself; what were the affects of colonialism in Muslim countries? What are the historical perspectives and contexts that bring us to the current state of affairs with the Muslim world? What has the West done to foster good relations with Muslims? How long have Muslims lived and thrived in the West? How many incidents of terrorism existed during those times? Why has Islam come under attack in the media?

I suggest you take some time to browse some of the articles and media on this blog for additional perspective on some of these issues.


Tariq Abdur-Rasheed 

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