Question: Recently a known British Muslim scholar has been reported in news stories as advising women who fear being harmed physically or verbally to remove their hijab so as not to be identified by those who are hostile to Muslims. What is your opinion on this matter. Can one remove hijab for fear of being targeted violently by others?
Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
Major scholars of the Muslim world have expressed their dismay at this statement, and regarding similar statements that ultimately harm the religious practice of individual Muslims and have a negative effect on the recognition of Muslim religious rights.
(1) Hijab is something personally obligatory, and upholding it in one’s practice is from upholding one’s religion–which is the central objective(maqsid) of the Shariah.
(2) When other matters that the Shariah came to protect–such as life and safety–seem to be in threat when upholding religious duties, then one must consider whether this threat is true and genuine; and whether it can be dealt with through reasonable alternatives that allow apholding one’s duties.
(3) The threats to safety can be dealt with by travelling in safe ways; avoiding being out alone in places where one’s safety may be at risk; and by wearing clothing that (while fulfilling Islamic rulings of modest, covering dress) does not attract ‘undue attention’ or backlash. It should also be noted that a lot of the attacks have simply been on people looking ‘ethnic’–even if they weren’t dressed ‘Islamically’, and in some cases even when they weren’t Muslim in the first place.
(4) The way to deal with challenges to Muslim religious rights isn’t to seek the path of least resistance but, rather, to stand up for one’s individual and community rights as citizens of democratic societies that recognize and uphold such rights. As such, someone who has reason to fear for their safety should seek appropriate recourse with the authorities–and it is only by standing up that one’s voice will heard and one’s rights respected.
And Allah alone gives success.