We are in an era of trials and tribulations, as foretold by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Al-Fitan – tests of faith, confusion between truth and falsehood, mutual dissensions, obscurity between right and wrong, widespread killing, war, and natural disasters – are rampant. Not to mention that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for Muslims to be able to freely practice their faith without facing some form of persecution, disdain, discrimination, humiliation or verbal assault.
Those of us who are living in countries where the Shariah is openly adhered to have no idea what it is like to be discriminated against. The alleged statements of Sheikh Tantawi of Al-Azhar University caused an outcry in the international media, perhaps blown totally out of proportion and context, to cause yet another furor against the niqab. Circles of so-called “progressive” Muslims, who wish to see the growing trend of young Muslim women willingly donning the face-veil banned, particularly in western countries, have jumped at the chance to denounce this trend, which they claim is an ancient “custom”, and not a part of Islam.
A case in point is the 2006 incident of British politician Jack Straw voicing his personal opinion against the face-veil of Muslims, which prompted British Muslim presenter and media personality, Saira Khan, daughter of Pakistani immigrants, to appeal for a ban on the niqab in Britain. She did this again when French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a similar anti-niqab public statement this year.
Whether the alleged statements made last week by the respected Sheikh Tantawi are true or not; whether he was misquoted to cause an unnecessary controversy, is something that might never be known for sure, as is always the case with reporting today. However, what is more disconcerting is the ripple effect that is evident on a global scale. Within just a few days of this incident, groups from Italy to Canada are appealing for a niqab ban. For more read here.