The Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America is very anxiously following recent occurrences in the French Legislature wherein a law is pending which prohibits the Islamic Dress code for Muslim women, referred to hereafter as “hijab”, in schools and government institutions. Additionally, to our disbelief and dismay, French President Jacques Chirac endorsed this prohibitive movement and requested that the legislation be passed.
The Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America endorses the right of States to political autonomy, so long as their practices are in accordance with international norms and treaties which delineate the disrespect of human rights as unacceptable, and in certain circumstances, illegal. An indelible facet of human rights is an individual’s personal freedoms which encompass the rights related to religion, including the upholding of religious rituals and practices.
France has long been a purveyor of great traditions that preserve and protect these rights, dating back most notably to its 1789 revolution which introduced the world to the slogan, “Liberty, Fraternity, Equality”. This revolution was instrumental in implementing political safeguards of these rights, which could clearly be seen in the advocacy of many Arab and Islamic issues. Furthermore, France has also distinguished itself as a country that refuses to acquiesce to geopolitical pressures exerted by some modern day world powers, which have abandoned these issues and forsaken these fundamental rights. Therefore, the Muslim world is inextricably shocked to witness France’s departure from its noble tradition, and its disloyalty to the most basic and definite of these rights.
In this respect, The Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America (AMJA) lays before the policy makers in France, in particular, and all the advocates of truth and justice in the world, the following fundamental facts:
1. The hijab is The Creator’s ordinance upon the Muslim woman whenever she reaches puberty. Its obligation has been agreed upon by all the Islamic creeds without exception, and it is part and parcel of the woman’s worship to her Lord and on equal terms with prayer, fasting, almsgiving and all other Islamic rituals of worship. The Creator made it a means of worship for the woman wherever she happens to be, whether within the Muslim country or outside of it; its abandonment is among the major sins that expose the Muslim woman to The Creator’s exasperation and wrath. The Muslims have abided by this decree throughout the ages.
2. The hijab should neither be transparent nor so tight that it exposes the shape of body parts. It is required that the entire body be covered. The only exception to this rule is the opinion of some scholars that the face and the hands can be revealed.
3. The hijab is and always has been the foundation of the Muslim woman’s attire. Notwithstanding cultural interpretations of its style , its substance and significance remains the same, and is exhibited in the covering of all that is other than the face and the hands. It is an incontestable part of the woman’s heritage, and the way in which she manifests her basic rights, and complies with her religious obligation and lawful duty. Liberal secularism has never before entailed the expropriation of cultural peculiarities and regional plurality, until now.
4. The hijab is not at odds with the liberal secularism that France and another nations of the European Union espouse, which, among other things, remains neutral regarding religion. The French Ministry of Exterior, stressed in its communiqué on secularism in France, that “it guarantees for every individual the possibility to express and practice his/her faith freely and securely. It is a concept that allows individuals- men and women- coming from different lands and countries, with different cultural backgrounds, to entertain the protection in terms of their creeds and beliefs. This is a protection that is guaranteed to them by the Republic with all its institutions…”. It is a mistake to interpret ‘secularism’ as being a mode of behavior that is in conflict with religion or is willing to subdue and confine it.
5. The hijab does not conflict with coexistence and positive integration within a framework of national unity. Rather, it accentuates the benefits of religious and racial diversity under a unique and unifying national project. It is a religious expression, a commitment to and practice of an individual freedom. It parallels the freedom of the Muslims or the Jewish to abstain from eating Pork, or of the Jewish to refrain from working on Saturdays in observance of religious rituals. These observances are as innocuous to society as they are spiritually significant to those who perform them as religious duties to their Lord. They imply no enmity towards others, or intend to instigate conflicts or create an environment that does not capitulate to the security and serenity required for peaceful coexistence.
6. The hijab possesses a precious message in all divine decrees, which includes protection, decorum, and ultimately a subservience to the Lord’s decrees. It cannot be compared with other religious symbols such as the cross on the chest of a Christian man and woman or the Yarmulke on the head of a Jew. It is a mistake to equate the hijab with these symbols because it is an equation of imperative obligations, whose neglect leads to sin, with symbols that are optional.
7. Forcing the Muslim woman to remove her cover confiscates her rights
8. Forcing the Muslim woman to remove her cover is a flagrant injustice towards a conglomerate of 5 Million people from among all conglomerations within a civil society. This discrimination leads to its isolation and alienation; this is the exact matter that President Chirac sought to deny when he said, “…and the reclusion of conglomerations cannot represent an option for France. On the contrary, it is antithetical to our history, our traditions and our culture”. Forcing the Muslim woman to remove her cover not only yields to President Chirac’s warning, but also contributes to the deprivation of certain fundamental rights such as education and employment. This is a transgression of equality, which is fundamental and deeply-rooted in the spirit of the French Revolution, and is among the most essential rights in all international treaties.
Given these facts, The Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America appeals to the French policy makers to reconsider their opinion on this matter, recognizing that it is a betrayal of the fundamental pillars of the French Revolution and its Constitution, and will forever represent an aberration in France’s long-standing mission to ensure “Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality” to all people. We appeal to them to provide an opportunity for peaceful coexistence between all denominations within dynamic French society, and to not forsake its own people by appropriating their fundamental rights, thus sending an ominous message to the world, that plurality and religious freedom are dead.
The Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America appeals to all Muslims in France to express their opposition to this inequity through the lawful means provided by French society, and to disallow the instigation of irresponsible reactions that are not endorsed by any creed or law, which swiftly presents lurkers and trouble makers a chance to propagate falsehoods about Islam, its civilization and its manners. It also appeals to them to hasten to establish their own educational institutions as a safeguard that would embrace their children and prevent the exposure of their daughters to the uncovering of their chastity, should the French authorities lend a deaf ear to their call for justice and conclude the battle against hijab with prejudice and injustice.
he Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America appeals to all advocates of truth and justice in the world to stand beside the French Muslims in their fight for justice, make their voices heard by the French government, and ask them to wisely and responsibly approach this matter in an endeavor to maintain equality and freedom, and to restore France to its esteemed status in the Muslim World.
God is behind the intent and He Guides to that which is right.