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.