A talk by Sr.Sukeina from Innovative Minds,
given at the Islamic Human Rights Commission's
Annual Islamophobia Awards 2004
Speaking As A Muslim Mother...
Today I speak here as a Muslim mother. I have a young daughter who is five years old. On special occasions, like when we go to the Mosque or when we pray I let her wear hijab. Looking in the mirror she carefully tucks her hair under her scarf and when she's finished she looks up and screams in joy “look mummy I'm a Muslim”. I smile back… but behind that smile I am afraid, afraid of what she will have to go through everyday of her life just to say “I am a Muslim”.
As Muslims we understand that our precious children are an ammanath – a trust from Allah - for which we are responsible. Our children are born to us Muslim, and it's our duty as parents to protect them, by teaching them of this great gift of Islam so that as they pass in to adulthood its still there with them continuing to give them strength and protection, and their lives meaning and purpose.
Our enemies understand only too well that our children represent the future of Islam in the West, a future they wish to extinguish. So it's not surprising, that in this war on Islam our enemies attack our children and their right to Islam. Wherever they ban hijab in the world, they first start by targeting our children.
|In Singapore it started on 1 st Febuary 2002 when four 7-year-old Muslim girls were thrown out of school for wearing hijab, after the Deputy Prime Minister had banned it. He said it was to help children integrate, but whilst he stripped Muslim girls of their hijabs, he allowed Sikhs boys to continue wearing their turbans.
7 years old Nurul Nasihah (centre left)
with her friends at school before she
thrown out for wearing her hijab.
Muslim parents are now forced to send their girls to Malaysia – just imagine your 7-year-old daughter having to travel abroad every day just to attend school!
|In the same month, but this time in Spain , a 13 year-old Muslim girl was refused entry to school because she wore hijab. The school and the Education Minister condemned the hijab as “a sign of discrimination against women” and declared that to allow the girl to wear it “would violate HER civil rights”! The Minister for Labour & Social Affairs joined in the attack calling the practice of hijab “savagery”.
Minister for Labour & Social
Juan Carlos Aparicio
the practice of hijab as
Interestingly the school was run by catholic nuns. Why is it that a nuns habit or the hijab of Mary, mother of Jesus, (peace be upon them) engenders respect and yet the same hijab on a Muslim girl is “savagery”? If this is not hatred of Islam, what is it?
This is perhaps the most insidious attack on hijab, when they claim it's for the good of our daughters. What they are saying is that we as Muslims are not fit to be parents and they must step in to protect our daughters from us and from our beliefs! We see this arrogance surfacing everywhere. When a girl comes to school in hijab her interrogation always begins with the same question “Did someone tell you to wear this or did you decide for yourself?” Apparently we as parents are not allowed to guide our children towards Islam, to do so is viewed as a form of child abuse.
|In France this happened when two sisters Lila and Alma, aged 18 and 16, turned up to school in hijab. The school suspected the parents must have “encouraged” the girls to wear hijab, but upon investigating they were shocked to discover that their father was an atheist Jew and their mother a non-practicing Algerian.
Sisters Lila and Alma
for wearing hijab
The father explained his daughters had come under no pressure from radical Muslims. "They have simply 'got God' - like so many teenagers always have, and their religion of reference happens to be Islam," he said. The school were not amused and expelled both girls. They are now forced to continue their studies from home.
And again, in a recent case in this country, where a 15 year-old Muslim girl, Shabina, was denied permission to wear a jilbab to school, the judge questioned who had put her up to it. In giving his judgement the judge suggested Shabina had been influenced by her older brother and questioned why he spoke for her – as if it was a crime for a brother to support his sister.
The school with its 80% Muslim population, allows the wearing of shalwar kameeze with scarf, but it refused the jilbab which is essentially an ankle length dress with scarf. As with all faiths, Muslims enjoy a diversity of interpretation as to what level of modesty is appropriate. Rather than acknowledge this and allow the extra 18 inches of cloth that distinguished a jilbab from a kameez, the school punished Shabina, a gifted pupil who had come top of her class. She lost 2 years of her education after the school vindictively blocked her getting a home tutor.
Astonishingly the head teacher argued in court that by wearing jilbab, Shabina would negatively affect the other pupils! The argument went that other girls would also wish to wear jilbab and soon two groups would form with the ones wearing jilbab being regarded as “better Muslims” and so to avoid division Shabina was sacrificed!
Denbigh High School banned
from wearing jilbab
for political reasons -
head teacher associated it with
"radical" Islam than
which it allowed.
The fact that the judge accepted this argument and found in favour of the school sets a very dangerous precedent and brings the UK closer to France where there is now an outright ban on hijab.
The real reason for the ban, as the head teacher let slip in court, was that the school regarded jilbab as belonging to a more “radical” Islam and wanted to prevent the children embracing it. So now the school decides what type of Islam our children are permitted to follow – how arrogant! Which other religious community would accept such intervention in the practice of their religion?
This isn't the first time this school has shown contempt for Islam, four years ago their RE teacher, shocked pupils by sitting on a copy of the Qur'an saying it was his book so he could do what he liked with it. When Muslim pupils got upset he offered them a Bible and told them, they could do what they liked to it [in retaliation]! It was only when pupil protested en masse that the school took action.
If similarly, this time they had rallied around Shabina, then perhaps a school, which is 80% Muslim, would not have been so bold as to punish a Muslim student for simply following her beliefs. Unfortunately it did not happen.
Lessons From Tunisia & Turkey
When we see what is happening in countries where the hijab ban is well establish –like Tunisia and Turkey - where teenage girls are dragged of to prison for wearing hijab, some even threatened with death; where a 72 year old woman collapses to her death in front of doctors who refuse to treat her because her medical card shows her wearing hijab (more info) …we should take heed - this will be our future if do not unite now and act as one Ummah in defence of our deen.
Tribute to IHRC
Before I go, I just want to pay tribute to the work of the Islamic Human Rights Commission have done over the years in regards to the hijab ban.
As you know I am from Innovative Minds, our first collaboration with the IHRC was some 5 ½ years ago when we joined their campaign against the hijab ban in Turkey by launching “Gems from the Holy Quran” software to help raise funds and publicity for the campaign.
Working with them, we were shocked to discover the shear amount of work they were doing, and all of it from those two tiny rooms – if you have visited their old offices you will know what I mean.
The countless number of local islamophobia cases they were handling; they campaigned for prisoners of faith in over a dozen countries – some of whom weren't even Muslim – I remember seeing the case of a Rabbi imprisoned in Israel among them; they send observers and lawyers; they support prisoners families, launching countless letter campaigns; provide training to local groups, do media monitoring and producing human rights reports. Then they do a huge segment of work, which really should be handled by a team of social workers but was dumped on them and they could not say no to someone in need.
All this and yet they had no publicity and very little support for their work. In fact just now as I speak they are helping with two hijab related case from Turkey that are being taken to the European Court of Human Rights, and they are preparing to take a further case from France , again related to the hijab ban.
The only thing hindering their progress is financial resources. Whilst they have always worked and progressed on the goodwill and dedicated voluntary support of many lawyers, researchers and activists, these cases take time and organization. That requires a dedicated worker, even if it's just for two or three days a week, with minimal office support of maybe a computer and a telephone – this costs money. This is where we can all help out – please give generously tonight so that they can inshallah continue the great work they are doing.
This is essentially what the IHRC is about – getting the work done – providing the help where it's needed, without any fanfare or publicity seeking.
In recognition of their outstanding service in defending the Muslim Ummah we would like to award them our very first “Noor Award”.
The “Noor Award” was inspired by a letter written by a Muslimah imprisoned in Abu Guraib prison. Her name was Noor, and in her letter, which I believe is in the packs you have been given, she asked for help so this award is for those who help.
Brother Massoud and Sister Arzu please come up and receive it on behalf of your team. Thank you.
Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights
Commission receives the first Noor Award