A YouGov poll has revealed that 57% of the British public would support a ban on the face veil worn by some Muslim women.
So what! Are Muslims expected to change their practices just because others demand it? Because that is the implication always put before the Muslim community – conform to western liberal norms, or accept to be mocked, derided, ridiculed – even stripped, if the law is changed.
Some, who have colonized minds, think that ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’. But this presents a problem when orgies, throwing people to the lions and gladiator duels to the death aren’t your thing.
Some, who might be adopting a secular criteria, will argue that Britain is founded on liberal freedoms, so according to liberal principles, there is no case to ban Muslim women dressing how they want. ‘Burqa or Bikini, it’s her choice’.
Some, who are new converts to democracy are learning that majority opinion is a complex thing to negotiate. First Brexit, now burqa ban – they are having to get used to accepting results they don’t like.
Majority opinions are frequently wrong. How often Allah SWT tells us ‘most of them’ did the wrong thing.
Moreover they’re often not straightforward. Sometimes, top-down legislation that is against public opinion helps to change public opinion over time. Until 2015 a majority of British people favoured the death penalty for certain crimes. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32061822 Yet the liberal principles of the ruling class legislated against this, decades beforehand. Majority opinions opposed same-sex relationships and abortion until long after the same liberal elite made these legal. These examples and many more illustrate that often-liberal principle trumps public opinion.
But other times, state policies can trump public opinion if they are argued (even falsely) to be in the national interest. The Iraq war, university fees, taxes rises etc are all implemented even if there is a majority opinion opposing these. The public has to put up and shut up when it is in the national interest. If it is argued there is a ‘national interest’ in preventing Muslim women covering their faces, it wouldn’t matter even if the public opposed a ban.
The dark side – the fear that many Muslims have, is of course that many populist politicians exploit illiberal majority opinions to secure votes and influence.
This poll indicates exactly how far the political campaign to demonise Islam has gone. So, it is not a trivial matter.
However, the Muslim response has to be one of sticking to Islam as much as possible – and carrying these beliefs and values to others.
Those of us who do not believe Allah obliges Muslim women generally to cover their face should accept that it is a legitimate juristic opinion for those Muslim women who cover their face out of a desire to worship Allah. We should remember that this was the dress of the Mothers of the Believers.
So to fall into the trap of labelling such women, or those who believe it is wajib, as ‘extremists’ is unacceptable.
Today it is niqab that is being debated – tomorrow it will be hijab, jilbab, prayer, fasting – even our Iman.
So, the message for Muslims is this. We don’t worship Allah based on what a majority thinks. We do worship Allah based on a choice – but once we make that choice we submit to the opinion of the Shariah we believe is most pleasing to Allah. And if others don’t like it, we don’t fear the blame of the blamers.
It is narrated that the Messenger of Allah – salallahu alayhi wasallam – said “Whoever sought the pleasure of Allah though it was displeasing to the people then Allah becomes pleased with him, and will make the people please with him, and whoever sought the pleasure of the people though it was displeasing to Allah then Allah becomes displeased with him and will make the people displeased with him”. (Ibn Hibban/ Tirmidhi)
Dr Abdul Wahid is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy, and the Prospect Magazine.