HIJAB; NOT JUST A PIECE OF CLOTH

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Bottomline:“The same SCOK judges who overturned high court ruling allowing Muslim students to put on hijab have ‘wigs’ on their heads which is a symbol of the colonial justice system that discriminated maimed Africans.”

Kenya’s Chief Justice David Maraga who heads the Supreme Court

The Supreme court chaired by Justice David Maraga’s  on Thursday 24th January 2019 overturned High Court ruling allowing female students of Muslim faith to wear hijabs in school prompting a hot debate online whether the ruling was a right call or unacceptable degree of Islamophobia inspired by poisonous evangelical jurisprudence that repudiate the rights of Muslim students to wear hijab as prominent city lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi opined.

The Kenyan constitution 2010, which was widely voted for by majority of Kenyans from different creeds and religious background allows every person to practice their religion of choice as long as it does not harm anyone. So, how does a female Muslim student wearing a hijab create harm to fellow citizens? It is important to know what is an Hijab is and its history.

History of the Hijab & Why Muslims wear it
Let us start from scratch by explaining the history of hijab and why Muslim ladies wear it.

Hijab is an Arabic word that means ‘cover.’ With reference to Assyrian text in the 13 B.C., the practice of veiling was reserved for elite and respectable women; prostitutes and women from low class were forbidden from veiling. Women in ancient Graeco-Roman, Pre-Islamic Iran and Byzantine societies practiced veiling. Until the 16th century, during the reign of Safavid’s in the Ottoman Empire, an area that extends through the Middle East and North Africa used veils as a symbol of social status among the Muslims. Since then, Muslims have embraced veiling as a cultural practice rather than simply an Islamic practice.

Woman in an hijab (animated photo)

One of the most frequently cited Quranic verses that is used to elaborate the importance of wearing of hijab is 24:30-31 “The believing men are enjoined to lower their gaze and conceal their genitals and the believing women are enjoined to lower their gaze and conceal their genitals, draw their headdress to cover their cleavage and not to display their beauty except that which is to be revealed except to their husbands and other relatives.”

Reasons why Muslim ladies wear hijab varies but mostly they revolve around modesty and devotion to God. Some put on ‘The Cover’ because of the belief that God has instructed them to do so in order to fulfill His commandment for modesty with the intention of reflecting on one’s personal devotion to God. Others wear Hijabs to profess their Muslim identity. Some do so to express their cultural identity.

Christians and Jewish women in some cases wear a headscarf as a cultural practice or commitment to modesty or piety.

In the postmodern world, some Muslim women choose not to subscribe to the hijab with the belief that the hijab and other external practices have become inappropriately central to the practice of Islam but instead choose to focus in their internal and spiritual relationship with God while some hold the opinion that it is a choice whether to wear it or not.

Law & Religion
Well, we are living in a world where holy books no longer determine ones rightness or wrongness but laws do. However,there are laws fair enough to uphold equity across everyone regardless of their religious affiliations infringing on their culture, identity and beliefs?

Ancient painting showing how covering the hair showed the social status of a woman

For instance, the Supreme Court Of Kenya (SCOK) judges that overturned high court ruling to allow Islamic students put on hijab have ‘wigs’ on their heads, Just like Maasais with their ‘shukas’, Akorinos are inseparable with their headscarf, catholic nuns too cover their heads. Why? Presumably, this is all about identity and beliefs. Therefore, why is one regarded  as devotion and commitment to identity and beliefs whereas the latter is seen as radicalization and oppression? To promote fairness at least if not adhering strictly to the fear of God by allowing the wearing of hijabs be a choice without necessarily taking one’s beliefs, cultural practices and identity from them.

A Catholic nun

According to the Holy Bible, apparently the Kenyan Methodist Church uses it to preach; in the book of first Corinthians 11:6 outlines, “if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head.”

One would argue the verse refers to married women but it actually refers to any praying woman. It is vital to note that people don’t have to pray in mosques, synagogues,shrines or churches but anytime and anywhere. For instance when a tragedy occurs, the first thing religious people do is pray. What if you do not have a veil on your head at the moment, do you stop praying? Well, the point is, if you have to cover your head to pray then is it not safe to walk with a veil?

For a moment, the Methodist church of Kenya was fighting its own scriptures.

Myths & Fabricated Ideologies
Many people associate Islamic attires with terrorism. This is a myth that needs to be debunked. Why should one feel insecure by one’s dressing in a beautiful plain white robe or covering oneself with ‘buibui’? These are mere attires that complement the Islamic religion and a form of tradition Muslims identify themselves with just like the Maasais and Akorinos have their way of dressing.

Maasai’s in their traditional attire

The French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools banned the wearing of all conspicuous religious symbols in public schools in 2004 by a different law, . This affected the wearing of Islamic veils and headscarves in schools, as well as turbans and other distinctive items of dress but did it prevent terror attacks? No it definitely didn’t stop the Charlie Hebdo,Strasbourg and paris attacks.

Violet Kemunto Omwoyo referred to herself as an Alshabab bride but it escaped everyone’s attention until she was linked to the Dusit D2 terror attack as the wife of the Ali Salim  Farouk Gichunge the mastermind behind the attack shows that as long as they are not Muslim women wearing hijabs they can associate themselves with terrorism and nobody will take them seriously.

Ideologies have been fabricated without tangible evidence that Muslim women are oppressed by wearing the hijab. We are living in a free world where everyone makes his own choices. Thousands of Muslim women across the world were seen posting pictures in their hijabs explaining how proud and happy they are to put on ‘the cover’ during World’s Hijab day. Were they coerced to do so?

Parting Shot
The Supreme Court decision may be viewed as intolerant in a free multi-religious society with Muslims feeling targeted as refraining them from observing their beliefs as their cultural identification and devotion to fulfill their God’s commandment. To say that schools have the final say on what to wear after passing a judgement to curtailing Muslim students from wearing hijabs is tantamount to giving a green light to implement it under their respective rules and regulations as a precedent has already been set by the highest court in the land. What are the thoughts of Muslim families with students who have been restricted from professing their faith?

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Campuserian’s editorial stance.

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