Take off hijab to avoid harm: UK Muslim scholar

Zaki BadawiA leading British Muslim scholar has said that Muslim women living in the European country, where Muslims have been suffering mounting abuse and harassment since the July 7 London attacks, can take off their hijab.

“I have issued a fatwa that Muslim women in Britain have an Islamic right to take off their hijab at this point of time if attacked or fearing to be attacked,” Dr. Zaki Badawi, the Dean of the Muslim College in London, told IslamOnline.net over the phone from the British capital.

Badawi said they have registered more than 1500 assaults against hijab-clad women during the past three days only, in addition to a flood of threat letters.

He asserted that in Islam hijab is originally meant to identify Muslim women, so that they might not be attacked or harassed. The scholar cited the Qur’anic verse which reads: “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognized and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Al-Ahzab: 59)

“If hijab becomes a reason of harm for Muslim women in Britain at this time, then I tell them to take it off so that they would not be recognized and consequently attacked,” said Egyptian-born Badawi. “Muslims (in Britain) are scared and each feels he/she is a suspect. The picture is, indeed, gloomy and we are trying all we can to address it.”

A Guardian/ICM poll published Tuesday, July 26, indicated that nearly half a million Muslims contemplated leaving Britain after the London attacks. It showed that tens of thousands of Muslims have suffered from increased Islamophobia, with one in five saying they or a family member have faced abuse or hostility since the attacks.

Police have recorded more than 1,200 suspected Islamophobic incidents across the country ranging from verbal abuse to one murder in the past three weeks. A British Muslim of Pakistani origin was beaten to death by a gang of extremists in Nottingham in northern Britain on Sunday, July 10. At least seven mosques have come under arson and racist attacks few hours after the bombings.

Dr. Badawi, a prominent Islamic scholar, community activist, and promoter of interfaith-dialogue, stressed that his fatwa only applies to Muslim women in Britain. “I staunchly opposed the March 2004 French law banning hijab in state-run schools,” he said. “However, the British case is different and hence requires a different reading.”

Islam Online, 28 July 2005