I have often imagined ‘how I would respond’ if my honour was attacked. I envisaged many different ways by which I may react to such a humiliating scenario. But imagination and reality are very different! On the Monday, after Eid-ul-Fitr, I went to town with my husband and three young children. As I waited to cross the road I suddenly felt a sharp tug to my hijab. The choking sensation made me instinctively grab the scarf as it was part way off my head.
I was unprepared for this attack, not from a physical or mental point of view, but from the perspective that it has made me realise how vulnerable we Muslim women are in this society. It also left me feeling upset and humiliated. How dare someone do this?
I turned around to see two women, and I reacted by screaming and shouting, their disregard showed they knew what they had done. They innocently accused each other; they knew my hijab, although only a piece of cloth represents my belief. My dress is an open identity of Islam that every Muslim woman wears when she steps out with her hijab on. Thanks to the media and how they portray Islam, this means that even the average person has become an expert on Islam and it’s so called barbaric practices.
Our local newspaper in Stoke-On-Trent is well known for its unsympathetic views towards Islam. For example, when our local masjid was badly damaged as part of an organised arson attack by former soldiers affiliated to EDL, the newspaper never gave it a front page spread, rather it was lucky to be covered on page three. But when a Muslim commits a crime it makes front page news. This may seem harmless but over time it creates hysteria, as people reading the papers start to think that Muslims are trouble-makers and always causing problems. Then when there’s a strong presence of far right parties like the EDL, the problem is further increased. We have even seen many more far- right councillors up North!
Alongside all this has been the constant national demonization of Islam and Muslims by various politicians and media outlets. The Islamic dress of the woman, Islam’s view on marriage, divorce, segregation of the genders, polygamy, politics, Shariah, the Khilafah – have all been attacked and vilified in recent years. This is in addition to the regular association made between Islam and terrorism, and the recent comments made by some politicians and media regarding the link between the sexual grooming cases of young girls in Rochdale and other Northern towns with the culture of Pakistani Muslims. With all this, is it any surprise that hatred against Muslims is being generated amongst a rising sector of British society?
As many Muslim women know, it is becoming common to be sworn at, shouted at, spat upon, and attacked. But after my own experience with these two arrogant women that dared to pull my hijab off, the true face of secular Britain was even more evident to me. Due to my experience, other sisters began to speak to me about theirs. Recently one sister had a full can of drink thrown at her 10 year old daughter from a car which bruised her stomach. Others have had dog dirt and food put on their hijabs while others have been doused with alcohol or knocked to the floor.
The rising numbers of such religious-hate crimes is an indictment of the secular, liberal, democratic system. How can a system that allows right-wing racist groups such as the EDL and the BNP to exist under the premise of the liberal value of “freedom of expression” ever create harmony between its various communities and cohesion of society? How can a system that allows politicians, media, and others to publically demonise the culture of minorities without legal repercussion be viewed as a civilized model of governance that other states should imitate and embrace? This is very different to Islam and the Khilafah that does not tolerate one word or one act of abuse against its religious minorities, for the Prophet(saw) said, “Whoever harms a dhimmi (non-Muslim citizen of the state) harms me.”
A point that some Muslims make following attacks on Muslim women is – they wouldn’t have been so brave if we had been with our husbands, fathers or brothers. But this time I was with my husband. Although he was there as my protector and I feel a sense of security when I am with him, this incident has really brought home the question of what is truly needed to secure the safety of ALL Muslim women across the world – in the West, Syria, Burma, India, Afghanistan, Palestine and so on. Who can help them and safeguard their dignity which Islam describes as more precious than gold? Who will answer the cries of our sisters who being defiled?
It made me realise more than ever the urgent need to re-establish the Khilafah? As only the Khaleefah that implements the true Islamic system will value the dignity of women as Islam obliges. It is only the Khilafah that will implement the Islamic laws that will safeguard women’s honour and mobilise its army to protect us, as we have seen many times throughout its history: Our Beloved Prophet (saw) as leader of the Islamic state in Madinah banished the whole tribe of Banu Qaynuqa after one of their people dishonoured one Muslim woman. The Khalifah Mutassim Billah responded immediately to the cries of a Muslim woman who was attacked by a Roman soldier by sending a large army to fight the Romans and protect her honour.
But as a Muslim woman in Britain, it also made me realize the importance of discussing with the non-Muslims that we know to clear the wrong ideas they have about Islam and Muslims. My husband on that day although very angry, tried to discuss with the lady who had attacked me the seriousness of what had happened, to which she replied “my neighbours are Pakis” and “are you against the cross?” However, there were many non-Muslims that day that came over to offer support to us and even reprimanded the lady. This shows how important our discussions with non-Muslims are in these difficult times.
I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone; it was so humiliating and upsetting. But as Muslim women we need to prepare ourselves! We should never feel safe and protected as Muslim women living in Britain for we live under a system that accepts hatred against Muslims and Islam to be generated such that we will always live under the shadow of potential abuse. The reality in the UK is changing as more events happen throughout the world, the politicians and media openly distort Islam, and Europe has greater far-right leanings. This is going to increase peoples misunderstanding of Islam therefore increase the chances of attacks like mine.
In addition, the nature of secular law is that our rights as a minority can be taken away at any instance as we see with the niqab and hijab bans in France, Belgium and other secular liberal European states. We need to seriously realize that the only state that will allow us to practice our faith, fulfil all our Islamic obligations, and wear our Islamic dress in an environment of security is the Khilafah. So as Muslim women living in Britain, we need to increase our efforts to establish this system in the Muslim world, discuss its urgency with our friends and family, and not allow the comforts of this country distract or divert us from fulfilling our obligation to our Creator(swt).
The Prophet (saw) said, “Behold the Imam is but a shield from behind whom the people fight and by whom they protect themselves.” (Muslim)