In the right place at the wrong time?
To Integrate Or To Disintegrate: Perchance Hijab Ain't the Rub
When a secularist realizes that oppressing others for his own peace of mind wont find public acceptance, a catchy maxim is resorted to,
Hijab prevents women from integrating to society. Hijab is, therefore, against their own wellbeing and we seek to help them.
Such concern for Muslim women could pass as sincere if those words were most prominently advocated by Muslim women themselves. Awkwardly, the claim raises most often from men who are not only outside the Muslim community, but have altogether no Muslim acquaintances - let alone bothering asking a Muslim woman for an opinion.
When this laziness is overcome though, the responses that are to be encountered drift apart from the convenient clause above. Asked whether the banning of religious clothing can be taken as a move towards integration, Leila answers,
It will only strengthen the real problem, and entrain all these Muslim women into opposition, by making them feel persecuted and disregarded by their own country. Do really secularists think naively that these women will tell to themselves that it will "help" them? In reality, if they want to ban the Islamic clothing it is only for their own interest, and to calm their own fears.
She thinks that what prevents Muslim women from integrating
Is not because of their scarves, but because they unconsciously trusted this propaganda in the media, which wants us to believe that hijab goes against integration.
Imaneh's experience is, however, beyond a problem in her own mentality, and more of a crude reality of humiliation that she is forced to experience to earn herself an education,
I personally don't feel integrated, simply because they don't integrate me. I am a student, and to pay my studies I have to work. But I must do so without my scarf, because they don't accept me with it. That intolerance is the real constraint for me, not hijab.
Indeed if hijab was the problem, it would be Imaneh behaving differently with/without the scarf - being thus perceived differently by the non Muslim French. But as she states, the change of behavior with respect to hijab is not on her side but on the receptors',
When I don't wear the scarf, people behave very differently towards me as to when I wear it. So I think if France accepts hijab, integration could take place. I think that as long as France doesn’t accep Islam, hijab will not be synonym of integration.
Acceptance and Everybody's Responsibility to Study
Accepting Islam as a way to solve the problem does not imply the French must convert to it. None other than the Quran (2:256) commands,
There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in God he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and God is Hearing, Knowing.
Those who faithfully adhere to the religion are to follow suit. Which entails the question: Isn't it much better to encourage faithfulness to Islam among Muslims rather than unfaithfulness (i.e. moderation, secularization) to it?
When Western authorities try to deviate Muslims from sticking to the fundamentals of the religion and force the clerics of Muslim communities in the West into seminaries for secularization, aren't they actually paving the way for them to divert into - among many catastrophes of selfishly making up own rules - thinking they do have the right to impose a religion/ideology?
A valuable outlook into solving the issue is pointed out by Leila, which is all the more pertinent as it includes self-responsibility, another blessing of faithfulness to an Islam which considers that the greatest Holy War isn't even that outer one to protect the community from external aggressions, but the inner combat against the self,
In my opinion, the first thing to do is to stop right now all this propaganda which pushes the French to see only the differences, and not the resemblances between them. They always search for the differences, and never the points in common. Moreover, I think there is a real work we have to do in the center of the Muslim community. We cannot reach out for integration without making efforts! From both sides.
Furthermore, if the problem was the religious clothing or the faithful adherence to a religion altogether, Leila's following statement would be void of truth, which so evidently isn't,
But there is something that secularists don’t know or don’t want to know: Today even women without any religion and without Islamic scarf are not integrated.
For Western converts like the very editor of this interview, this is a striking reminiscence of a discovery in one's own self that a study of Islam - and what it really proposes for human kind -, far from being the problem, is more than worth the while.