Hijab has also come to symbolise the Islamic identity of Muslim women. All over the world, Muslimahs in hijab have become targets for attack by secularists and others seeking to attack Islam. Even Sri Lanka, where Muslims have lived in harmony with the majority Sinhalese community for over 1,000 years, Muslimahs in hijab are now coming attack.
Their attackers, however, are not members of the Sinhalese majority but the Tiger Ealam terrorists, who are a tiny minority allegedly fighting on behalf of the Tamils who are concentrated in the north east and north of the country. The Tigers claim that they are denied their rights by the Sinhalese, and have waged a brutal war against the government which has already cost thousands of lives.
Prominent among the hijab incidents in Sri Lanka is that of two Muslim teachers - F. M. Munafdeen and F. Faiz - who were suspended from their work at a government school in Badulla (north east Sri Lanka) earlier this year, because they wear the hijab. S. Satchchitanandan, the provincial minister for Tamil education, added insult to injury by demanding that the government-run school be renamed the Hindu Girls School. (The Tamils are predominantly Hindus, while the Sinhalese are Budhhists.) The school has more than 200 Muslim girl students.
Instead of adhering to government education ministry guidelines pertaining to the rights of Muslim teachers and students allowing them to wear hijab, Satchchitanandan intensified his anti-Muslim campaign. He transferred all 40 teachers out of the school, of whom eight were Muslimahs, and inducted 47 new teachers. This was designed to deprive the two Muslim teachers of their cause by removing them from the scene.
Among the 47 new teachers, however, five were Muslimahs, of whom three - M. Noorjehan, Mesdames F.Razik and S.S.Omar - wear the hijab. Satchchitanandan demanded that they remove their hijab if they want to teach in the school. All three have refused to remove their hijab and one of them, S.S. Omar, had even signed the register at the new school, thereby officially being registered as staff member. She was transferred to another school, the Hali Ela Muslim Vidyalaya, but she insists that she is a staff member at this school and that wearing hijab is her religious right which is guaranteed by the government’s education policy.
The Tamil minister’s stubbornness led one Sinhala Council member of the city, quoted by the Al-Islam newspaper (September-October, 1999) to remark: “The Tamils accuse us of discrimination; what hypocrisy. When the Tamils have power, they use it to deny rights to the Muslims, and are even willing to create communal tension. Isn’t this justification to suspect hidden hands behind the whole issue?”
The Tamils have targeted the Muslims in their midst because the latter refuse to join the Tiger Ealam’s terrorist campaign of killings and mayhem. The hijab issue is one more dimension of their deep animosity towards Muslims. It needs emphasising that the Tamils receive support from numerous Christian missionaries, Britain, the US, India and, of course, Israel. Those who carp about fighting “terrorism”, are themselves the biggest supporters of terrorism and the denial of basic rights to people, especially Muslims.
At the same time, the increasing hostility towards hijab in Sri Lanka is just one front of a trend being seen across the world. Because of the great hostility exhibited towards Islam and Muslims in the west, Muslim women in hijab are now the target of an especially malicious and vicious campaign. It is one of the ironies of living in the west that, while individual freedom is much touted, Muslim women are denied this right. What the west advocates, in fact, is that women are free to uncover but they are not free to cover. This ludicrous notion extends to many other non-Muslim societies, and indeed even many westernised ‘Muslim’ societies as well.
In Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, hijab is banned in government offices and in government-run schools and universities because it offends the alleged sensitivities of secularism, the new religion. Merve Kavakci, the hijabi Muslimah who was elected to the Turkish parliament from a constituency in Istanbul has been denied her seat because she refused to remove her hijab, which Turkey’s secular fanatics regard as a “threat” to the Turkish republic.
She is currently fighting government attempts to strip her of her Turkish citizenship, a move intended to deprive her of the right to represent her constituency. Other Muslimahs are fighting for the right to wear their hijab in schools, colleges, universities and hospitals, and are being severely persecuted for their efforts. The secular Kemalist republic has effectively declared war against Islam, as hijab is mandated by the Qur’an.
Similar threats are faced by Muslim sisters in Tunisia and several other ‘Muslim’ countries. Our brave sisters, in Sri Lanka, Turkey, and elsewhere, need all the support they can get against these attacks on their Islam.
Muslimedia: December 16-31, 1999