An anti-burqa law to renew Islam in Europe

An anti-burqa law to renew Islam in Europe
by Samir Khalil Samir

The practice of wearing the veil has spread across the Islamic world in recent years. Hundreds of articles have been written about it in the Arab-Muslim world. Among Muslims, the practice has been met by a number of reactions and points of view. In some cases, it has been totally or partially banned (especially the full-face version); in others, women have been encouraged to wear it, in some cases at all times. This shows that the Ummah's is far from being unanimous (ijmâ') over the "Islamic nature" of this type of garment, or about the attitudes towards it. In any event, the veil is an issue around the Muslim world. The full-faced veil is indeed a major problem.

The full-face veil scares

The burqa and the niqab raise fear . . . for good reason. They scare Muslims and non-Muslim alike. When this practice is associated with Islam, when it is made into one of its essential elements, this fear is not only about Muslims, but also about Islam itself. The term phobia in "Islamophobia" in fact stands for "fear".

Indeed, many Westerners do "fear" Islam. The more Muslims try to advance their demands in the name of Islam, the more Islamophobia will grow. Westerners will ask why should are they so different and special that they would want to come to live in a social, cultural, political, economic, vestimentary and culinary milieu that is not theirs, one that existed long before their arrival.

The feeling that Islam pervades every aspects of daily life, that it demands a certain type of behaviour, has created a sense of "invasion". And this raises fears. Many begin to wonder: If I give in on this issue, which one will be the next? Will there ever be an end? Some ask themselves whether Islam can ever be integrated in Europe".[1]


What is the solution? Should the state legislate on the matter?

Who must "fight" the full-face veil? Should the state adopt a law? If the latter were the case, it would be very sad. On the one hand, we may ask whether it is necessary for a state to legislate in a matter that affects only 2,000 people out of a population 62,500,000 people (0.003 per cent). Our answer is in a Latin expression: De minimis non curat praetor (the government does not concern itself with trifles). On the other hand, if the law says nothing and Salafist pressures continue—something that is very likely because they are for a cause that seeks victory, one that will be followed by others—, then the issue will not be dealt with. Some short gap solutions might be found, with some general guidelines laid to give local communities or institutions the power to decide.

Unfortunately, the "de Creil" affair[5] of 18 September 1989 suggests that conflicts of this nature are not healed by the passage of time alone. The French government had to set up the Stasi Commission and pass a law (on the separation of state and religion and ostentatious religious symbols) on 15 March 2004 to reduce tensions. Yet, the letter that Ernest Chénière, headmaster at the Collège Gabriel Havez in Creil, wrote to the parents of Fatima (13) and Leila (14) Achahboun and those of Samira Saidani was reasonable for it said, "Our goal is to limit the excessive showing of all religious or cultural affiliation. Please, have them [the daughters] respect the secular character of our school."

Can Muslims find a solution?

The most reasonable solution can only come from within. Muslims must solve the problem themselves. It would be great if we had a group of "sages" who could explain the actual nature of the issue, and go into the reasons that limited in past its appeal in most Muslim countries, whilst favouring its recent sudden appearance in the Muslim world as well as Europe.

Sadly, that is crux of the matter. A certain kind of solidarity based on clan or ancestral affiliation is preventing us from conducting self-criticism, especially of things that appears to be religious in nature. For some reason, we are paralysed. The overwhelming majority of Western Muslims are against the full-face veil. Yet no one has the courage to take the issue to the streets to demonstrate against it or put pressure on fellow Muslims, much less on imams.

We should explain publicly why such a garment is ethically contrary to French (and Western) culture and why it is deemed degrading to women. Islam must more than ever rethink itself. Practicing Muslims must help their co-religionists separate Islam from certain outdated cultural practices; they must also help them understand where the line runs between religion and politics within Islam . . . in other words, they must help them build a modern Islam, based on its beliefs, one that can make a spiritual contribution to world civilisation.


What is the way out? In spite of inevitable reactions among Muslims and some non-Muslims, a law would lay down limits of a ban, in schools and universities, government offices and in places people have to show their identity.

At the same time, Muslims must go through their own tanwîr (enlightenment) in order to create an enlightened Islam, undertake their own Aufklärung. This must be done using the internet (on sites like, in forums, in radio and TV discussions, in every media. Indeed, we should do this in conferences, round-tables and in mosques, emphasising the positive aspect of this goal, namely how to rethink Islam in today's Europe.

For my part, as an Arab Christian, of Islamic and Christian culture, I am certain that Islam (like other religious traditions) has a cultural and spiritual role to play in world civilisation. We must identify what is best in Western and Islamic civilisations and what is less so. This process is best done together because confrontation serves no purpose, except to poison the atmosphere and increase tensions. As such, it will not be easy. It would nevertheless be beneficial to Islam and Christianity as well as to the Arab and the Western worlds.

For the indigenous population, the large number of Muslims in Europe is seen as a threat . . . . Sadly, it is so at present. Both sides are responsible for the situation, but the presence of so many Muslims can also be a source for reflection and balance for either tradition. Such work of understanding must be done jointly, in a cultural, ethical and spiritual dialogue that includes everyone (agnostics and non-believers as well, since ethics and spirituality are not a preserve of believers alone).

As a believer, I think that the presence of a large number of Muslims in Europe can be seen as something providential, an act of divine Providence (al-'inâyah al-ilâhiyyah) . . . for them as well as for the Europeans because both can renew themselves in justice and equity, acknowledging each other as legitimately different and yet complementary. W-Allâhu samî'un 'alîmun! (َاللهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ! ), Allah is Hearing, Knowing.[6]


Source: Asian News (English)

No comments: