Why Muslims Should NOT Use “Personal Freedom” or “Human Rights” to Argue Against Niqab Ban [Part 1]
As the attack on the niqab by politicians and the media intensifies in Britain, Canada, and other Western secular states, Muslims have once again felt pressure to defend yet another of their Islamic practices and to argue against its ban. There is no doubt that it is not a piece of cloth that is on trial here but the latest face of the attack on Islamic values and beliefs. It follows the hysteria created around the jilbab, Shariah, polygamy, and Islam’s segregation of the genders, as well as its view on marriage and divorce, homosexuality, gender roles, politics, judicial punishments, and even the concept of one Ummah, amongst many other issues, including insults against the Qur’an and our beloved Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم. Therefore, whether as Muslims we view the face veil as an Islamic obligation, recommendation, or something that is simply permitted for the woman, the fact that it is based upon a valid Islamic opinion and that it is Islam that is on trial here and not just the niqab, means that we must all respond to this latest assault on our deen. But the question is how?
Some have adopted the approach of using “personal freedom” or “human rights” that are enshrined in law within Western secular states to argue the right to wear the niqab. However, just as we passionately defend our Islamic practices in order to fulfil our obligations to Allah سبحانه وتعالى in accordance with His Commands, the basis upon HOW we respond and present our arguments against such attacks should also be in accordance to the dictates of our deen. With this in mind, it must be understood that “personal freedom” is a concept that has no place in Islam. Rather, it is a value that fundamentally contradicts the Islamic Aqeedah for it originates from the man-made secular way of life and liberal ideals that believe that God should have no say in the organisation of the affairs of life and that individuals should be permitted to perform actions, legislate, and live their lives according to their own whims and desires, rather than in line with religious laws. In stark contrast, Islam states that the Creator سبحانه وتعالى is the legislator in all spheres of life. And it commands us as believers to be a slave to Allah سبحانه وتعالى and NOT a slave to our whims, but rather to perform actions and to mould, regulate, and fulfil our desires according to the Laws and Limits laid down by our Creator in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Allah سبحانه وتعالى says in Surah Al-Furqan,
“Have you seen him who has taken his whims and desires to be his god? Will you then be his guardian? Do you suppose that most of them hear or understand? They are just like cattle. Indeed they are even more astray!”
He سبحانه وتعالى also says,
“No, by your Lord, they are not believers until they make you their judge in the disputes that break out between them, and then find no resistance within themselves to what you decide and submit themselves completely.”
In addition, these liberal freedoms implemented within Western and other secular societies are the basis upon which men and women are permitted to dress publically in a sexually provocative way and to engage in extramarital relationships, even adultery. They are the basis upon which businesses and the advertising, entertainment, and pornography industries are given license to expose, objectify, and sexualise the bodies of women for profit. And they are the basis upon which insults against the Qur’an, our beloved Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and our deen are accepted, entertained and even encouraged within societies that sanctify freedom of expression. All of this has wreaked havoc within states, as warned by Allah سبحانه وتعالى,
“If the truth were to follow their whims and desires, the heavens and the earth and everyone in them would have been brought to ruin. No indeed! We have given them their Reminder, but they have turned away from it.”
None of this can we possibly accept as Muslims, and therefore not only must we reject these liberal freedoms but we should NEVER use such a corrupt concept to defend our right to practice our honourable, noble Deen. Furthermore, the ideal of “Human Rights” as defined by secular institutions such as the UN or the European Court of Human Rights is not a universal value common to all human beings regardless of religious belief, nor are they simply associated with the right of individuals to the protection for example of their life, property, or religion. Rather such “human rights” also have a non-Islamic ideological basis for they stem from the preservation of liberal freedoms. In the pre-amble to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, it states, “Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms”, which essentially refers to liberal freedoms, including the right of individuals to leave their faith and pursue any sexual relationship they desire, which contradicts Islam.
Alongside this, we have witnessed countless times the erratic, unpredictable and hypocritical manner by which secular governments and institutions implement such freedoms which can be here today and gone tomorrow based on the prejudice of their people or the whims of rulers and judges, as demonstrated by hijab, niqab, and even minaret bans within various liberal states such as France, Belgium, and Switzerland. In 1998, even the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) (the highest human rights court in Europe) in a case against Turkey’s hijab ban in public buildings, ruled in favour of upholding the ban, justifying their decision on the basis of protecting the secular basis of Turkey. In 2004, the ECHR also ruled in favour of the French hijab ban in state schools, commenting that the actions of the French government did NOT violate “freedom of religion” and that such bans issued in the name of separating church and state (i.e. to protect secularism) could be considered “necessary in a democratic society”. It is clear therefore that personal freedom and human rights under secular states and institutions are guaranteed only for those who tow the secular line – that is those who limit the practicing of their religious faith to their homes and mosques and away from public life – which Muslims who adhere to their Islamic obligations do not, and cannot conform to. So as Muslims, how can we base our arguments upon this ‘elastic’ concept that contradicts Islam and has no fixed basis but rather can change like the wind, according to the misconceptions, misinformation, and bigotry towards Islam present within societies?
So as Muslims, we should reject such non-Islamic ideas and not use them as the basis to formulate our arguments against attacks on our deen or to protect the right to practice our Islamic beliefs. Rather, our response to calls for bans on the niqab or any other aspect of our deen should be based upon Islam alone.
“So judge between them by what Allah has sent down and do not follow their whims and desires deviating from the Truth that has come to you. We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you.” (Al-Maeda: 48)
Part 2 of this article will address how Muslims should respond to this attack on the niqab.
Written for the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir by
Dr. Nazreen Nawaz
Member of the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir