Children’s Column

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Hijabophobia

The bill passed by the European Union’s court of justice, legalizing the ban on headscarves by the European Union companies, was yet another move to erase Muslims from the public sphere. This, and many such proceedings in the past, are seen as deformed legal monsters, eating up the freedom and fundamental rights of the minorities, in the name of security. The stories of some French Muslim women, as told to the Guardian newspaper goes thus:

Aisha, now a mother of five children, was a model student of her school, until she refused to remove her headscarf, when a government edict advised schools to prohibit the wearing of ‘ostentatious religious symbols.’ She recollects, how she was forced to come to school, but forbidden from attending lessons, nor was she allowed to go out into the playground to mix with other students. This went on for months, until she was permanently excluded from the school. This broke her individuality, her confidence, and her belief in institutions.

In yet another case, a mother of an eight-year-old was denied, when she came forward to volunteer for a school outing, only because she wore a headscarf. The humiliation she faced in front of other parents made her cry in front of all, while her little son witnessed the whole scene.

These stories are just a glimpse of the brutality and humiliation faced by the Muslims for following their religion.

When Bush administration went to fight the Afghans, he insisted that the oppression of women was the fundamental goal of all terrorism, and that the United States will do everything in its power to prevent terrorist from enacting their brutality on women beyond Afghanistan. Will then, the United States liberate the French Muslim women from institutional terrorism?

Why is this ‘Islamic threat’ growing rapidly in Europe and beyond?

Todd. H. Green, professor for religious studies at Luther college, and author of several books on Fear of Islam in the West, rightly notes that, the growth in Muslim population across  Europe since the mid-twentieth  century runs parallel to secularization or, perhaps more aptly, de-christianization.

As Muslims grow and assert their religious identities in the public sphere, Christianity’s public role and influence fade. In other words, the increasing presence and vitality of Islam is accompanied by the decreasing presence and influence of traditional Christianity. This is not because they long to return back to the period of church holding the greater power, but rather, they perceive this trend to threaten their ideologies of building heaven on earth.

What has caused the rapid growth of Muslim population in post-war Europe, which has led to these tensions and controversy? In 1950, some three hundred thousand Muslims lived in the twenty-seven countries that today form the European Union. Most Muslims at this time came from former European colonies. As a result, most lived in Britain or France, the two largest colonial powers in Muslim majority regions during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The need of unskilled labour to rebuild European countries after World War II, led to the first wave of Muslim immigration in the 1950s and 1960s. Much of these immigrants came on the invitation of European governments. When these immigrants chose to stay back in these countries, second wave of immigrants ensued in 1970’s with their families joining in. Then again, a considerable number of asylum seekers and refugees joined in, thus changing the demographics of European countries by 1980s and so on.

The seeping in of the Islamic culture within Europe is viewed as a clash of civilizations by the civilians and government alike. Efforts to strip Muslims from their religious identity will only feed on conflict and division, thereby increasing the rifts between people.

What we need as humans is not conflict, but community, not a clash between people, but coming together of them, by being accepting and tolerant towards each other. Countries like France, should respect the religious identity of the Muslims, instead of hindering them from it. We stand united with the French Muslim women during these tough trials.