Hijab on Campus
“And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male servants not having need (of women), or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women; and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! so that you may be successful.” Surah An-Nur, 30-31.
When faced with issues of concern there are always two strategies to adopt: the immediate plan of action, which is short-term and reactive in nature; and the ongoing plan of action, which is long-term and proactive in nature. MPAC encourages all Muslim students to take on both strategies to defend and protect the use of hijab on campuses.
The issue of abuses against Muslim women in hijab has become a prominent one that must be tackled today. This issue may be one that is taking place in France, Turkey and a host of other places where hijab is banned in official places and Muslims women are being stereotyped, excluded and discriminated against. Or it could even be the hardship and trauma of Muslim women who continue to be harassed and stereotyped as with the cases of authoritarian NYSC officials at NYSC camps across many states in Nigeria. As a Muslim student that is prone to such abuses, read several opinions concerning the ban on hijab, news on hijab campaigns and on possible courses of action that are open to you. Also, be prepared and sensitive to the shocking views that certain members of the general public may hold on the issues of hijab. Many media and general public comments on Hijab in the free open space vary from claims that hijabs are a sign of oppression and male domination over women to claims that hijab are voluntary or mere Arab culture. Such ignorant comments can be found on almost every discussion boards dealing with the issue.
In order that the issue be truly addressed it is necessary to deal with the underlying misconceptions and ignorance that people hold. People may not agree with the wearing of the Hijab, but when it is explained to them correctly, many will respect the right of others to wear it and understand its true meaning and significance. It is ignorance that leads to fear in people and hence prejudice and discrimination against what they perceive as hostile. By educating people and alleviating fears we take steps towards eradicating prejudices and hence discrimination.
Immediate Plan of Action
Talk about the issue with friends, family and colleagues in a calm and responsible manner: Simply letting the people around you know about hijab and how you feel about what is going on and thus eradicating some of the misconceptions they may hold can go a long way. People are more likely to be receptive to those close to them, so make sure you take the time to express your views.
Involve your campus Muslim student organization so that a case-specific solution can be generated to address the problem.
If all these efforts fail to address the problems, log and submit official complaint to the authority. Read the section dealing with this issue on our website for guide.
Reactive work is essential but only deals with the symptom of the problem that lies beneath. In order to truly tackle the problem, a proactive approach needs to be taken an approach through which the deeper issues are dealt with and addressed. MPAC have produced a suggested action plan as follows:
ONGOING PLAN OF ACTION
Organize a day about Women in Islam and use the occasion to run Hijab campaigns on your campus to combat negative stereotypical image of the hijab which lies at the root of discrimination. To enable you do this, start an Islam Awareness Week on your campus if you already do not have one. Make sure you dedicate a day or an event to the issue of Women in Islam and Hijab Issues. Try to get as much on- and off-campus media publicity for your programmes (prepare media kit to promote the campaign in the media) and ensure that both Muslims and non-Muslims (target and invite specific groups that may have had specific incidences involving students in hijab e.g. NYSC state officials to the event dealing with Hijab issues) are fully educated about the high esteem of women in Islam, and the rights they have held since the Qur’an was revealed. Also, add most that denying Muslim women to wear hijab is a clear violation of basic human rights – that of freedom of thought, conscience, and belief – which are enshrined in numerous International Treaties.
You may have a Dawah stall that you set up regularly on campus or on Fridays. If you do, ensure that you have good literature available that addresses some common misconceptions held about the status of women in Islam.
Talk to the Women’s Officer at your Student Union (if you have one), otherwise, identify and lobby a prominent and responsible female official of the Student Union to help you promote the campaign on Hijab. Invite her as guest speaker to speak at your functions on issues like freedom of expression as it pertains to women rights, then in a follow on speech link this with the Muslim women’s right to freely express their belief and conscience, in their chosen attire. Also, in most Student Unions you will find a Women’s Officer or some such person you can talk to about your concerns as a Muslim female student with a concern that affects most other Muslim female students. Let them know of the discrimination you may feel and ask them to help by portraying the positive image of Muslim women in any other appropriate campus events specifically organized to address such concerns. Better still, volunteer and work with them to produce an information leaflet about major issues affecting female students on campus, Muslim (female) students, women in Islam, the Hijab or some other such issues, that can be promote the Muslim cause on campus.
Write in to your local student paper:
Write a letter or even a short article and try to get it printed in your student paper. Tell a personal story or experience and put your view across intelligently and clearly. Understand that most people in the audience you target for your message may be non-Muslims and may not be interested in many scriptural quotes, try to make people understand your points rather than turn your message to a theological debate. Also, when you write for the student audience, don’t make it your main aim to get people to agree, but simply to have them understand and respect our way of life. In your daily life as well as in your writing, treat all people with respect and dignity that they deserve, just as you would like to be treated.
Link up and lobby the Student Affairs office of your school proactively to make the school recognize the use of hijab as a fundamental right. Step forward with creative ideas to be seen and heard as a positive and visible element on campus. To protect use of hijab on campus, log and table all incidences of harassment and discrimination through your Muslim student association, to the Student Affairs office. Your Muslim student association should retain copies of all reports for administrative uses.
Lastly, we must protect our right to wear hijab and support our sisters in Turkey, France, Tunisia, Morocco, Germany and many other places where Muslimahs are being persecuted for standing up for the most basic rights – that of freedom of thought, conscience, belief and worship; and we must work to build understanding of Islam and our way of life in our own society. The best way to defend the right to wear hijab is to wear it ourselves. The use of hijab for women is prescribed in the Qur’an and to be able to defend it as a fundamental right we must be practicing it. So, wear your hijab.
The Martyr of Hijab: Marwan El-Sherbini
Marwan El-Sherbini (7 October 1977 – 1 July 2009), the daughter of chemists Ali El-Sherbini and Laila Shams from Alexandria. In 1995 she graduated from the El Nasr Girls’ College, where she also acted as a student speaker. She was a member of the Egyptian national handball team from 1992 to 1999. From 2000 to 2005 she studied pharmacy at the Faculty of Pharmacy of Alexandria University, obtaining a bachelor’s degree. In 2005, El-Sherbini moved with her husband to Bremen in Germany. In 2008, the couple and their two year old son moved to Dresden, where her husband Elwi Ali-Okaz, a lecturer at Minufiya University, obtained a doctoral research position at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics. At the same time, El-Sherbini worked at the University Hospital Dresden and at a local pharmacy, as a part of an accreditation scheme to practice pharmacy in Germany. On July 1st 2009, Marwa Sherbini, the three month pregnant mother of one, was stabbed 18 times and killed in a courtroom in Dresden. During the attack Alex W. was allegedly shouting “You don’t deserve to live!” as he stabbed Marwan repeatedly. Marwa appeared in a court hearing to testify against him on July 1st. She was continually harassed by her assailant and at least once physically attacked by him when he forcefully removed her Hijab in a school playground.
During the hearing, he produced a knife and viciously attacked Marwa, stabbing her 18 times in front of her 3 years old son before anyone successfully intervened. Her husband attempted to shield her, and was also stabbed and then mistakenly shot by an armed guard who thought he was the attacker.
On 6 July 2009, about 2,000 Muslims of the Egyptian community and other nationalities in Germany held funeral prayers for El-Sherbini, in Dar Al-Salam Mosque, in Berlin.
On 11 July, a public memorial, organized by local civil rights groups, was attended by more 1,000 people, including the Egyptian ambassador and officials from the state of Saxony. White roses and photos of the victim and her family were placed outside Dresden’s City Hall.
The Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, where El-Sherbini’s husband researches, issued a statement on the occasion of the official ceremony, expressing shock and sympathy. This was preceded by the Max Planck Society having strongly condemned the attack on 8 July, stating: “The fact that the attack was racially motivated is especially distressing to us, considering that the Max Planck Society is a scientific research organization with staff members from the most various nations. Sherbini is being hailed by many Egyptians, as well as others, as the ‘Hijab Martyr’ as she lost her life because she was Muslim, a part of her identity made obvious by her hijab.
On 11 November 2009, Alex Wiens was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Marwa El-Sherbini and the attempted murder of her husband Elwi Ali Okaz. Judge Birgit Wiegand stated that the court had found “particular gravity of guilt”, because the offence was accomplished in front of the child, against two people, in a treacherous way, and in a court of law. This requires the convict to serve a minimum of 18 years before a board will review the possibility of parole for the first time
May God give her peace and grant her paradise.
Those who harass believing men and believing women undeservedly, bear (on themselves) a calumny and a grievous sin. O Prophet! Enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of true believers that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad) That is most convenient, that they may be distinguished and not be harassed. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Surah Al-Azhab, 58-59.