Ban the Hijab for the Sake of Aqsa Parvez
19 Dec, 2007
- Yes, nobody would want to do that, but sadly many girls born in Islamic families are forced to do that.
One day after the death of Aqsa, I received an email from an 18 year old girl from UK. She said that she has been reading about Islam and she has decided not to follow that religion. However, her Muslim parents force her to wear hijab and her sister told her that if their mother learns about her views, “she would either kill you or she’ll kill herself”.
I sent her the story of Aqsa and what her father did to her. She wrote back and said, “What an animal! Anyways, I don’t think my mom cares about my beliefs, as long as I don’t have a boy friend, [and don’t] take off my hijaab.”
The truth is that Aqsa’s father was not an animal either. He was just a devout Muslim, who had worked hard and had built a nice home for his family in an upscale neighborhood. He was an ideal immigrant, a true “success story.” However, he had no choice. He did what he had to do. As one friend wrote, “In a way there are two victims in this case. This man like any other father must have loved, nurtured and cared for his daughter for years. It is so unfortunate that he finds himself turned into a monster that ate his own progeny.” Then this friend asked “What kind of ideology was it that turned a simple hard working family man into a revolting image of himself?”
What the westerners do not understand is that Muslims have different values, which are diametrically in contrast with western values. Western societies are guilt based. In guilt based societies individuals base their conduct on “right” and “wrong”. They try to do the right thing and if they do something wrong, they feel guilty. Muslim societies are shame based. In shame based societies individuals base their conduct on the opinion of others about them. What really counts is to look good. In shame cultures, if you do something wrong, as long as no one sees it and knows about it, you are okay. You can still keep your head high and act as an honorable member of the society. It is the image that you project of yourself that matters. You must do everything to protect that image. It is all about keeping the appearances.
In guilt societies, how you dress or don’t dress is your business. You can practice nudity and even promiscuity and have no shame. As long as you don’t violate someone else’s rights you can do whatever you like. Such a thing is inconceivable for Muslims who come from shame societies and where everybody's life is the business of everybody else. This makes the western and Islamic cultures essentially incompatible. If this problem is not resolved soon, it will result is a major clash and dire consequences.
In a subsequent email my young British friend wrote, “My mom has noticed a change in me, ..and she said today, ‘I hope you haven’t done anything because so an so aunt will laugh.' Jesus! Who cares about so and so aunt who doesn’t even care about us?”
This is the crux of the problem. In Islamic societies people live in function of the opinion of others about them. That is the only thing that really matters to them. Muhammad Parvez was devastated by the fact that her 16 year old daughter wanted to dress like her classmates and show off her beauty. How could he look into the eyes of his Muslim friends with such a daughter? Muslims call western women “sluts” for not covering themselves. For Mr. Parvez his daughter’s western clothing was a major source of shame and dishonor. He had no choice but to kill her. There is hardly anything for which we humans are willing to die for like our honor. This is far truer in shame based societies, where guilt plays virtually no role and everything is based on shame and honor.
Millions of girls living in Muslim families in the west are abused, beaten and face death by their own loved ones because of honor. Don’t assume that these girls are the only victims. Their families are also victims. They are left with no choice, but to kill the apple of their own eyes. Everyone in this tragedy is a victim. It’s the government that is guilty!
The government is guilty for letting down its Muslim citizens and particularly its most vulnerable members. There was no need for Aqsa to die. If hijab is banned, no Muslim can look down at other Muslims for not observing it and no one will have to feel shame. Muslims hardy wear hijab or observe any Islamic custom when they live in places where there are few Muslims. This problem arises only when they congregate together and build their shame based communities.
The 20th century Pahlavi ruler Reza Shah knew how to handle this problem. He banned the chador (Iranian style of veil) in 1936. He ordered the police to arrest woman wearing chador and forcibly remove it. Although this policy outraged the mullahs, the average Iranians were relieved. The ban allowed them to be free without having to deal with the burden of shame. The historian Mir-Hosseini writes, “this move was welcomed by Westernized and upperclass men and women, who saw it in liberal terms as a first step in granting women their rights." She continues, 'between 1941 and 1979 wearing hejab [hijab] was no longer an offence, but it was a real hindrance to climbing the social ladder, a badge of backwardness and a marker of class. A headscarf, let alone the chador, prejudiced the chances of advancement in work and society not only of working women but also of men, who were increasingly expected to appear with their wives at social functions. Fashionable hotels and restaurants refused to admit women with chador, schools and universities actively discouraged the chador, although the headscarf was tolerated. It was common to see girls from traditional families, who had to leave home with the chador, arriving at school without it and then putting it on again on the way home'." (cited in El-Guindi 1999 pp. 174-175)
Despite his flaws, Reza Shah is hailed as a hero and the father of modern Persia by many Iranians because he banned the hijab. He was a Muslim and was keenly aware of the Muslim mind. He knew that only with the fist of the law Muslims can be rescued from their backward traditions. He broke down the power and prestige of the clergy, discarded the Islamic law, closed down Islamic madrassahs, forbade religious processions, and replaced the Islamic calendar with the old Persian-Zoroastrian solar calendar. He prohibited the Islamic call to prayer and discouraged the pilgrimage to Mecca. He even forced the clergy to shave and take off their robe and engage in honorable professions. The majority of Iranians welcomed his reforms. He was seen as a liberator. He set Iran free from the oppression of the culture of shame. It is this shame that inhibits Muslims to take the first step and stand out of the crowd.
Western governments have a duty towards their Muslim citizens and particularly their women that traditionally have been the most disadvantaged members of Islamic societies. If hijab was banned in Canada Aqsa would be alive today and a hard working good father would not have had to become the murderer of his own beloved daughter. The government failed both Aqsa and her father.
There are millions Muslim families who share Parvez’s predicament in western countries. The girls in these families are under greater pressure and bigger danger than those living in Islamic countries. In Islamic countries everyone wears the same clothing. It is much easier for Muslim girls to conform and comply there than in western countries. It is here that they need to be protected.
Aqsa is dead. Her beauty will be devoured by a cold grave. That bud was nipped before blossoming into a full flower. Will we let her death go in vain or will we ban hijab and set millions of Muslims free in her memory?
We must ban hijab, save innocent lives, end this abuse, and absolve the poor Muslim parents from their unbearable burden. Muslim parents are not animals. They are torn apart between their love of their children and their honor. Only the government can take that burden away. The only people who would not welcome this ban will be the mullahs who will see their power reduced. The average Muslims will be grateful and relieved from the oppression of their peers’ scornful eyes.
Now that Muslims are living in the west in such a large numbers, politicians must make an extra effort to understand the Muslim mind. Only the hand of law can put an end to this culture of shame and force Muslims to integrate. If we let this division stand, a clash between these two cultures will become inevitable.
Ali Sina is the editor of Faithfreedom.org. He is has contributed in 'Beyond Jihad - Critical Voices from Inside Islam'. His latest book is Understanding Muhammad: The Psychobiography of Allah’s Prophet will be published soon.