Monday, October 24, 2005

More on the Hijab: Why Does the Hijab Provoke a Strong Emotional Reaction in non-Muslims? ...



In response to a previous post titled "On the Hijab ...", Mr. George Carty has asked me in his comment why the hijab provokes such a strong reaction in non-Muslims. I have attempted to give an explanation at the comments section of the "On the Hijab ..." entry, but Mr Carty is right in noting that my reply is comprehensive enough to warrant a separate entry, so here is my reply.


To understand why the hijab provokes such a strong reaction in non-Muslims, especially Western non-Muslims, one must consider the history of Europe. It may be noted, as I have noted in my original posting, that Mary, mother of Jesus (peace be upon him), preferred to wear the hijab, as can be attested by the fact that virtually all portraits of the blessed lady have depicted her with the hijab. At some point in history, Christian women got rid of the hijab, even though portraits of Mary (may God be pleased with her) continued to depict her with the hijab. The hijab, which was originally meant for all women, became confined only to a select group of women called the nuns. It was the historic battle between the Church and Science during the European Renaissance that finally helped to make the hijab so unpopular in Europe.

Everyone knows about how the Church was a great impediment to the progress of Science. The reason for this unfortunate conflict was the injection of Greek philosophy into the Bible centuries before the Renaissance even started. A significant portion of this Greek philosophy was unscientific and simply nonsense, but the upholders of the Church, unaware of this historic reality, sought to uphold the Bible as sacrosanct and thus vehemently opposed anything that was opposed to their set beliefs and patterns of thinking. In the battle between the Church and Science, the latter emerged victorious. While this victory paved the way for scientific progress and technological advancement in Europe, it also ensured the separation of the Church from the State. The Church, having thus lost its influential power, became an object of attack by the upholders of Science. Atheism became increasingly popular and morality levels plunged. Religion became "unscientific", faith became "blind", and secularism became the new religion of the European. Practices associated with religion became unpopular and frowned upon. One of these practices is the hijab, which, because of its association with nuns, became a symbol of oppression reminiscent of the oppression of the Church to advancement and progress. Thus, the woman who wears the hijab came to be considered as backward, conservative, or fundamentalist.

A very different story is found when one considers the history of Islam. It is important to note that while Christianity did away with the hijab, Islam did not. At the same time, while Christianity found itself at odds with Science, Islam found itself to be the impetus for Science. While Christianity lost its alliance with the State, Islam presented a framework for the establishment of the State. Thus emerges the modern Muslim woman, smart, confident, educated, and professional, with her all-too-conspicuous hijab. The European non-Muslim fails to come to terms with this combination of qualities because history seems to tell him, "There is something terribly wrong with that combination". Hence the strong emotional reaction.

14 comments:

George Carty said...

I think the Muslim woman in that cartoon needs more sleep :)

DrMaxtor said...

Asalam Aliakum,
Very nice blog. I think a number of things cause the negative reactions, xenophobia being the most common reason. Maybe insecurity plays a role too.

Renaissance Scientist said...

Wa alaikum us Salam,
Thank you sir, for your compliment and your comment.

thabet said...

"Atheism became increasingly popular and morality levels plunged. Religion became "unscientific", faith became "blind", and secularism became the new religion of the European.

I am not sure this is completely accurate. Christianty was taken seriously by the likes of Newton. In fact, Christianity was taken more seriously by 18th-century Europeans than their intellectual predecessors like Hobbes or Grotius. Perhaps it is fairer to say a specific form of religion -- Catholicism as embodied by the Church -- is what clashed with "science" (though this too is slightly skewed into a modern myth -- e.g. Galileo had his supporters inside the Church too).

assalamu 'alaykum

George Carty said...

Wasn't Newton a Unitarian?

Renaissance Scientist said...

Wa alaikum us salam ... Newton had proposed a deterministic universe which was governed by mathematical laws. Experiments done in those times were in agreement with Newton's theories, at least up to the precision that those experiments could attain. Newton thus believed that it was God who had set the mathematical rules for the physical universe and it was God who initiated this mighty clockwork. To that extent, I agree with your observation that religion was taken seriously by the likes of Newton. But my point is that the current trend of atheism/secularism/humanism that has pervaded Europe has its roots embedded in the historic clash between the Church and Science. Christianity may have been taken seriously by 18th-century European intellectuals, but that was because they were trying to reconcile Christianity with Science. They ultimately failed because the Darwinian "theory" of evolution paved the way for a Godless universe.

Renaissance Scientist said...

As an afterthought, I think I should add that a lot of people today consider the Darwinian concept of creation of Man as entirely false and not based upon scientific evidence. Please see my post titled, "The Unscientific Myth of Darwinian Evolution and the Qur’ān ..." for more details.

George Carty said...

I think the secularization of European society was not just due to Church hostility to science, but also due to revulsion at religious intolerance (anti-Jewish pogroms, the genocidal Albigensian Crusade, and the carnage of the 30 Years War). In a society of Abrahamic monotheists there are three possible ways to handle the relation between religion and the state:

1. Persecute all religions except a single "official" state religion - the pre-Enlightenment Western solution.
2. Separate religion from the state entirely - the post-Enlightenment Western solution.
3. Permit multiple jurisdictions, depending on religion - the traditional Muslim solution.

I'm also wondering whether the rise of Muslim intolerance may be because non-territorial governance (multiple legal systems in one teritory) is extremely difficult in a technologically modern society. Once the dhimma system was rendered untenable, Muslims were forced to either abandon Shari'ah or abandon tolerance.

Abdul Rahman Hilmi said...

George Carty said: "I'm also wondering whether the rise of Muslim intolerance may be because non-territorial governance (multiple legal systems in one teritory) is extremely difficult in a technologically modern society. Once the dhimma system was rendered untenable, Muslims were forced to either abandon Shari'ah or abandon tolerance."

Shariah, although includes personal individual and family rules, also contains "a framework for the establishment of the State." It holds the governing rules and laws to be applied by the Islamic governing body onto the society it rules. If Shariah is absent then the Islamic government is absent, and if the Islamic government is absent then there is no leadership for Muslims and in the absence of an Islamic leadership, there is no unity. In such circumstance, Islamic education, environment and law is all lost to the books on the shelves. The rise of Muslim intolerance came due to the absence of any leadership, guidance and education for the Muslims combined with the constant attack against Islam and the Muslim from the West. It is only a reaction to the environment they have been placed into. However, even then we can analyse it deeper and realise that Muslims are not divided into two camps only; either intolerance or abandoning the Shariah. Four camps will actually arise from amongst the Muslims as a reaction to such an environment, (1)those who give in and become secular and Muslim only by name (ie, give up the Shariah), (2)those who decide to close their eyes and ears and spend their lives inside mosques ignoring everything going on around them (ie, the un-politicised Muslims), (3)those who retaliate with extreme measures (true extrimists like al-Qaeda and co.) and (4)those who realise what the problem is and how to solve it in the correct patient method.

The first two camps are what Western rulers call "moderate Islam" and they are what is acceptable to them. The last two are called "extrimists" no matter whether the fourth group is violent or not. The "moderate" group is generally quiet and therefore the loudest voice you will hear coming from the Muslims will be from the so-called "extremists". Those who are truley extremists will obviously cause alot of damage. Metaphorically, you would hear about all the planes that crashed in the news, but you wont hear anything about all the ones that landed safely. This is why extreimists would tend to be heard louder than others. The fourth group will be quiet initially, however when they slowly become more influential, you will hear more about them, not from them themselves, but from the Western rulers who are begining to realise the threat they pose.

George Carty said...

Why exactly are the fourth group a threat to the West (something to do with oil, by any chance)? As a Western non-Muslim I would regard the following Muslim tendencies as unacceptable:

1. Aggressive war against the West. (The definition of "West" here does not include Israel.)

2. Imposition of Shari'ah law on non-Muslims.

I'm not morally bothered though if Muslims want Shari'ah in their own lands, or if they want to attack Israel (beyond the pragmatic considerations resulting from Israel's nuclear weapons).

Abdul Rahman Hilmi said...

It is not in the interest of the Western governments that the people of the Middle East (and any other country they are robbing for that matter) to have complete independence and a government that actually represents the people. Imagine if the resources of the Middle East was actually in, say Europe. Would the US benefit as much as it is benefiting from the Middle East today? If there was stability in the middle east there would be progress. If there was progress we wouldn't need American companies to extract our resources and take a huge percentage of it and give the remainder to the royalties and the elites of our countries. If the Middle East actually progressed like Western Europe, would you think the US would be allowed to have as many bases as it does today all over the Middle East? If there was progress in the Middle East would we be such huge importers of Western products? Such a large market due to our incapacity to actually produce for ourselves. Back during the days of the caliphates, it is recorded that farming on the nile delta actually produced enough food for the whole of North Africa. Egypt was called the Bread Basket of the Caliphate. Today, Egypt can't even feed itself due to inefficiency and the corruption in the government. If there was peace in the Middle East, we wouldn't have been one of the largest markets for weapons produced by the West. It is not a secret that during the Iran/Iraq war, Britain and the US were selling weapons to both the Iraqis AND the Iranians. And during the first Gulf War, it is their own weapons that they sold to the Iraqis that they later destroyed in the name of freedom and peace; which was as we know followed by inhumane sanctions, no-fligh zones and later the complete invasion and chaos in the country.

The threat this fourth group poses on the West is not an invasion or a physical attack on the West and her people, no. It is the threat that this group could actually bring independance and peace and unity to the oppressed people that the Western market interests will all be lost. The Caliphate is really not a tiny matter and it would come at no surprise that it scares the Western governments. A country that spans from Indonesia to Morocco and from Chechenia to Somalia could really bring justice to this world after all these years of rampage, wars and raping of the lands.

“ There are people who control spacious territories teeming with manifest and
hidden resources. They dominate the intersections of world routes. Their lands
were the cradles of human civilizations and religions. These people have one
faith, one language, one history and the same aspirations. No natural barriers
can isolate these people from one another ... if, per chance, this nation were to
be unified into one state, it would then take the fate of the world into its hands
and would separate Europe from the rest of the world. Taking these
considerations seriously, a foreign body should be planted in the heart of this
nation to prevent the convergence of its wings in such a way that it could exhaust
its powers in never-ending wars. It could also serve as a springboard for the
West to gain its coveted objects.” - 1902 - Sir Campbell Bannerman, Prime
Minister of Britain [1905-08]

George Carty said...

Abdul-Rahman Hilmi,

In 1945 Europe lay in ruins. Why did the Americans spend billions of dollars rebuilding Western Europe, rather than keeping it weak and dependent (which you seem to think would have been more in their interest), and opposed the extension of Soviet power there by supporting two-bit anti-Communist dictators, rather than by encouraging liberal democratic capitalism?

JD said...

George wrote: "Why did the Americans spend billions of dollars rebuilding Western Europe, rather than keeping it weak and dependent..."

Several reasons: First, the US is made up primarily of the sons and daughters of Western Europe, no matter how many generations removed. It would have been politically unwise not to have helped Europe to rebuild. Second, the US factory system was fully intact after the war and needed new markets in order to fully utilize their capability. So a strong European market was in the US's economic interests.


"...and opposed the extension of Soviet power there by supporting two-bit anti-Communist dictators..."

In Europe? I know the US supported numerous anti-communist dictators in other regions of the world, such as in Latin America and eastern Asia (hence the quotation, "He may be a bastard, but he's our bastard," attributed to both FDR and Truman).

George Carty said...

Several reasons: First, the US is made up primarily of the sons and daughters of Western Europe, no matter how many generations removed. It would have been politically unwise not to have helped Europe to rebuild. Second, the US factory system was fully intact after the war and needed new markets in order to fully utilize their capability. So a strong European market was in the US's economic interests.

Thanks! The second part of your reply is not applicable, as I was aware that the US supported dictators outside Europe, and was simply wondering why a similar policy wasn't used IN Europe too...