Wednesday, 26 November 2014

And the fate of the Hijab…?

And the fate of the Hijab…?
Only in the not distant past, in the heydays of the Boko Haram violence, it became a problem in Maiduguri for men to wear the beard, a Sunnah in Islam. This was as a result of military crackdown on suspected Boko-Haramists in the city. Many men who saw it a religious duty to grow beards, and those who just wanted to grow them either for purposes of convenience or of simple preference, were force to have to shave clean for their own safety. In fact even outside the epicenters of the insurgency, if security agents saw one with beards at checkpoints they looked at such a person twice; with suspicion that is. Today, the Hijab is gradually beginning to take over from the beard.

Only two days ago, there was another bomb-blast in Maiduguri which claimed about sixty lives. The blast took place in a crowded market in the city which was beginning to experience some relative respite from such occurrences, the last one being sometime in July. The twin bombing was said to have been carried out by women dressed in Hijab on a suicide mission. There is however a variant account which says that the first explosion was purveyed by a popular mad woman in the market who was apparently coaxed by the terrorist to deliver the bomb at the target spot. She did and died along. Then the second, carried by a woman in Hijab on a suicide quest, went off hitting the many first responders to, and onlookers at, the first.

The point here is that now, the terrorists have resorted to the use of women; and women dressed in hallowed garb. In the last couple of months, virtually all the bombings that have happened were carried out by women and all of these women were dressed in Hijab, the Niqab type; and one wonders quite realistically: how are women donned in Hijab going to be treated in our society now that a pattern has clearly emerged?

One asks this question because of the place of the Hijab in Islam, where it has been strongly emphasized in matters of decency and modesty especially as they pertain to interaction of women with members of the opposite sex and indeed strangers as a whole. True enough, when one considers the global cultural trend and its general level of permissiveness and license in the name of modernity, one cannot but accept the truth that a woman well clad or in the Hijab is an embodiment of dignity.

This quest for modesty expressed through the wearing of the veil is not peculiar only to Islam. Long before the birth of the religion, the Semites – people of Southwest Asia, including the Arab and Jewish peoples, and the ancient Assyrians, Babylonians, Carthaginians, Ethiopians, and Phoenicians – had their women clad in veils, Hijab, and only women thought to be loose would not be so dressed. Christianity came and upheld that way of life and it continued to be a mark of women who have chosen consecrated life since the first century AD. One of the earliest recorded convent was around 292 AD, the Women of St Pachomius. The first woman recorded to profess as a nun in the Church was Marcellina, on Christmas day around the year 354AD. She received a veil from Pope Liberius. Her brother, St Ambrose, in his reflections on chastity and modesty, which his sister embraced marked by the veil, wrote: “behold how sweet the fruit of modesty, which has sprung up even in the affections of barbarians. Virgins, coming from the greatest distance on both sides of Mauritania, desire to be consecrated here.” This is just to demonstrate the commonality between Islam and other faith and cultural traditions in the pursuit of modesty. Islam, however, upholds the Hijab at doctrinal or dogmatic levels.

Today, many countries in the west have taken harsh positions against the Hijab to the dismay of Muslims. They have advanced reasons largely bordering around issues of terrorism, safety and security. In fact other countries who had, before now, been most tolerant are gradually taking hostile stand to the Hijab. Muslims have considered such posturing as an affront on their protected rights to religious freedom and expression.

However Muslims want to look at it, some among them have gone under the nobility of the Hijab and committed havoc of damning proportions, and people and societies who have second thoughts about how they countenance the Hijab also have their own justification. If one begins to sample opinions on our streets right now as to how people would react to a woman coming behind them in Hijab in the market, the result can only be left for one to imagine.

Good Muslims must stand up and win this battle against elements among them who have dragged and are still dragging their religion into the mud before the rest of the world.

BLUEPRINT Newspaper, Thur Nov 27, 2014.

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