By Ayesha Yousafi
I read this article from Al Jazeera: "Europe's Failure To Integrate Muslims" a few weeks back and found it really interesting.
My first thoughts after reading it were 'Thank God I'm British'- not because Britain's the home of peace and love and is a magical land where racism/stigmatisation/ignorance is non-existent (the BNP and EDL can vouch for that), but Britain is tolerant, for the most part anyway...
This article essentially talks about France's passing of the Assemblee Nationale bill, which is basically about reducing Islam's visibility within ethnic minorities across Europe, e.g. the anti-bruqa law passed in the Netherlands, headscarf restrictions in France and the German supreme court banning Muslim prayer in public schools.
I think one of the problems preventing Muslims from integrating into society is everyone's fear of talking about things like the burqa, hijab, halal, haraam etc. and there's a lot of misconceptions, misunderstandings and misrepresentations about Islam and it's beliefs.
So, I thought I would try and clarify and explain a few things about Islamic teachings and practicings, cuz I read a lot of weird and crazy stories about supposed Muslim teachings and blah blah.
So first things first, let’s address this issue of Jihad, terrorism and Islamic extremists.
OK, so Jihad basically means 'struggle' in Arabic. Jihad can be subcategorised into the terms 'Greater Jihad' and 'Lesser Jihad'. Greater Jihad refers to a persons everyday, internal struggle against temptations that may prevent a person practicing their faith as they should (like the devil whispering naughty, tempting things into your ear like 'eat that bucket of KFC.....it doesn't matter if it's not halal etc.). Lesser Jihad refers to a Holy War, or a struggle where Islam is being defended.
Now if you hear practicing Muslims talking about jihad, they will be referring to 'greater jihad', but most of the western media use the term jihad in reference to something about bombings and what not. Most Muslims will slap the palm of their hand in their face when hearing how the term Jihad is used, or mis-used, most of the time.
So that's the distinction between the two Jihad's.
Now a lot of terrorists throw the word Jihad about to justify their actions and the stupid things they do.
Firstly, there's something you must know. These so called 'Muslims' who go around bombing buildings full of innocent people and buses/cars/whatever else is bomb-able, are like the Hillbillies of the Muslim world (sorry Hillbillies, but references about you in American TV has led me to believe you are an embarrassing and weird bunch of peeps). Don't let these stupid people tarnish your view on the rest of us REAL Muslims with enough sense to practice our faith correctly:
"On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (The Noble Quran, 5:32)"
I could go on about this all day, but hopefully you'll get the message from that!
Then there's this big deal about burqa banning and hijab prohibitions in certain public places in countries like France, Denmark and the Netherlands etc.
Now I think there's a tremendous irony in this ban, but before I talk about that, let me just define the difference between the different veils:
In Islam, it's compulsory for a woman to wear a headscarf or Hijab. Hijab's must be worn in front of men you are not related to, so basically, anyone who you can marry, so it does not have to be worn in front of the men of your family.
To explain it simply, the purpose of a Hijab is to stop ladies being checked out by guys! I could've worded it better by saying it's designed to protect a girls modesty, but basically, that's the reason, and only so that a woman will be judged on her personality, abilities and knowledge, as opposed to having physical appearance influence someone’s judgment of you.
(and when I say judge, I don't mean it like they have the right to tell you how and how not to live your life, but their opinions on you. To quote one Tupac Shakur-'Only God can judge me')
I'm very aware at how cliche this sounds, but the idea of hijab is to tone down your outer beauty so your inner beauty can shine!
Sorry, cheesiness over now.
So Hijab is compulsory, but niqaab and burka is not obligatory for Muslim women to wear, that's optional. Now I wear a hijab, but I don't, and don't think I ever will wear a niqaab or burka, simply because I don't think it's necessary. And it would be a crime against humanity to hide this beautiful face *bat's eyelids*. But, saying that, I've got no problems if a lady wants to wear a niqaab or burka. A person should have the freedom to express themselves however they wish.
But, the fun-loving Taliban and other extremist leaders force ladies in areas in Afghanistan and Iraq (maybe Iran? not sure) to wear niqaabs and burkas. A woman is publicly punished and humiliated if she doesn't conform to this ignorant ruling. You cannot force someone to wear or do something against their will. It's a oppression.
Oppression is also denying a woman of her freedom by banning her from wearing a niqaab or burka if she wants to wear one, and stop a woman from wearing a hijab in certain places, despite someone labeling it as liberation.
One thing I wonder about the Hijab ban in some bits of France is whether Sarkozy has done this just for Muslim women, or whether this ban extends to Christian Nuns as well, who essentially cover the same parts of their body as Muslim women who wear Hijabs!
Now hijab is, and always will be a controversial topic when talking about Muslim integration in western society. I wear a Hijab, and I feel like I integrate into society just fine! I have friends that belong to a variety of religions, or belong to no religion at all! And friends whose personal beliefs completely contrast with mine, but who gives a shit? Will the fact that I wear a headscarf change your opinion of me and my blogs?
Black, White, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Atheist, Gay, Straight....we all bleed the same blood, we all breathe the same air, why can't we all just be tolerant of each others beliefs and agree to disagree!?
What kind of a world would it be if we all believed the same thing? Would maybe be a bit more peaceful, but then again maybe not?
The article I mentioned above talks about an old fable by Aesop called 'The wind and the sun'. It's basically about a man who is wearing a jacket, and how the harder the wind blew, the closer the man held on to his jacket- the harsher laws are in singling out a specific group of people, the more closely and tightly they will hold on to their traditions and see you in a hostile light. It was only when the sun with its warm rays increased the temperature created discomfit in the man, and he removed his coat- If a less hostile approach is taken, people will be more willing to accept and join in with what you are saying
Peace and Love, Ayesha
Ayesha Yousafi is a modern girl, living in a modern world. She recently completed her Bachelor's Degree of Science from Leeds University and resides in the UK with her family. She is also the publisher of the often humorous and always informative Meow Meow.