Hijab, Britain,
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The Normalisation of the Hijab in UK Primary Schools Remains Unabated

There is a dire need to take a firm stand against this mindset that aims to brand women as objects rather than human beings.  The idea of veiling infants is nothing more than a bid by some parents to satiate their false sense of cultural superiority.

With the news of oppressed Saudi women gaining permission to drive, we seem to have drifted along on a wave of happiness, to the extent that we have lost sight of the fact that human rights abuses very similar to the ones for which we excoriate Saudi Arabia are presently taking place in modern Britain.

Despite the excitement, the news hardly baffled me. It did not come out of the blue but was an outcome of cumulative, persistent resistance by Saudi women who are still fighting against many appalling restrictions, including mandatory veiling and male guardianship imposed by the totalitarian Saudi regime.

However, British authorities and many on the British left seem to turn a blind eye to the plight of Muslim women and minors at home, which is causing irremediable damage to British Muslim youth.

The policy that started with Islamic schools of making the hijab a compulsory part of the school uniform has now taken root in British primary schools across the country.

It is deeply offensive that a majority of Islamic schools in Britain openly state on their websites that the headscarf is not optional but a compulsory part of the uniform for young Muslim girls.

The same rule is observably but ‘unofficially’ in effect in the British primary schools as well.

Despite intense criticism, the normalisation of the hijab in British primary schools remains unabated. A study conducted by The Sunday Times found that around a fifth (18 percent) of 800 Primary schools – including Church of England Primaries – list the hijab for children as part of their school uniform.

Ironically, this is happening in a free democratic land where people are unequivocally entitled to basic human rights. Even there the extremist mindset endorsing the imposition of the veil seems to thrive under the pretext of ‘cultural appreciation’ and remains exonerated.

Concerned British citizens, including some authorities, have observed the cumbersome policy of making the headscarf a part of the uniform for Muslim girls in British primary schools. They have been watching little girls going through this ordeal on a daily-basis but nobody seems prepared to take responsibility for it.

Critics have many times addressed the issues of gender segregation and the normalisation of the headscarf in faith schools, but to no avail. In 2016, Ofsted decided to take an initiative against schools imposing the veil as a uniform policy, on the grounds that veiling was hindering “positive social interaction”. For that move, Ofsted faced severe criticism from Muslim community leaders as well as other concerned authorities. Yet, these were the very people who should have been defending the interests of students whose childhood was arguably robbed for the sake of deference to the religious sensibilities of some conservative religious adults. If British values are indeed a policy priority in schools, then gender equality ought to be among them.

The contradiction between what British education authorities say and what actually happens on the ground has left a credibility gap. This, along with the nonchalant attitudes displayed by the British authorities’, appears to be a major cause of festering misogynistic attitudes among Muslim communities. The end result is that little girls are sexualised by disputed Islamic elaborations of ‘modesty’.

The debate revolving around the veil as ‘empowering’ Muslim women and anti-Muslim bigotry leaves these girls at the mercy of the extremist religious ideologues who see girls as sexual objects who are expected to cover themselves from head to toe as a means of evading inappropriate social conduct.

Hardliners among Mullahs in the West have seemingly marched beyond even the extremist standards set by their predecessors.

The obsession to control women is now engulfing infants and governments like those in Britain – which are conveniently confusing a psychological disorder with freedom of expression. The idea of veiling infants is nothing more than a bid by some parents to satiate their false sense of cultural superiority.

From the outset, the debate on the veil tends to be misrepresented as a matter of choice for Muslim women, both by Islamism’s apologists and their liberal sympathisers, which only hampers clear thinking on the matter.

It is conspicuously evident that a four year-old girl has no choice whatsoever in choosing a veil over fancy frocks having Minnie mouse and other cartoon characters printed on them. The argument over the appropriate age when Muslim girls should begin to don the veil, whether from infancy or puberty, only avoids the more important issue of whether Muslim females should wear it at all, and functions as a convenient distraction from the issue of whether the veil is a form of discrimination against women and girls. It allows the central question of the propriety of veiling as such to be perpetually begged and directs all attention instead on the question of how, rather than why, Muslims ought to adopt this misogynist practice.

Wearing the veil as a religious obligation is a controversial subject within Muslim communities around the world. It stems predominantly from men’s perception of being pious imposed on women under immense social and political duress.

Many renowned Muslim scholars disagree with veiling being adopted or projected as a religious obligation. Therefore, it is inappropriate for Western authorities to give ultra-conservative hardline Muslims carte blanche to impose their perverted sense of modesty on Muslim women, nor for the Western media to peddle this attire as a religious symbol for Muslim women.

Moreover, Calling the veil a matter of choice is a shallow political statement. It is well-known that Muslim girls who wish to dress and act like other teenage girls around them (in the West) are threatened and harassed by the moral brigades of Muslim communities.

Modesty is something to do with your character, not with a piece of cloth. The notion of measuring women’s modesty with her clothing should be condemned by all means. It is a pity that European liberals consistently endorse the hallmarks of political Islam called ‘Islamism’ (which includes imposition of the veil).

They are seemingly too naive to apprehend that this misogynistic ideology absolves men of abusing women and puts the onus on the victim to guard herself against all unwanted advances through veiling. These ideas are sufficiently perilous to reverse the successful gains made through the long struggle to empower women in the West. There is a dire need to take a firm stand against this mindset that aims to brand women as objects rather than human beings.

 

About Khadija Khan

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