"My Head Is Covered Not My Brain" Belgium Hijab Ban
By: Raneem Ghunaim/ Arab America Contributing Writer
With rising Islamophobia in Europe, it has become more challenging for Muslims to live life like any other people. This is especially the case for Muslim women. Again, we hear about a new hijab ban in a different European country. More European countries are now limiting Muslims [hijabis] to do the bare minimum. This is not to mention the constant hatred they face, along with blatant daily discrimination.
On June 4, 2020, a campaign was launched following an official decision to uphold a ban on head coverings in higher education in Belgium. This meant that Muslim women who wanted to pursue higher education were required by law to take off their hijab. This decision received a huge amount of backlash from Belgian citizens and other Muslims across the world. Many protests broke out. People started using the hashtag #HijabisFightBack, as well as #TouchePasAMesEtudes which translates to, “Don’t touch my studies.” Due to the brief attention that the media gave this situation, demonstrations broke out in Brussels as well. Thousands of protesters took to the streets fighting for basic human rights.
Back in June of 2020, Belgium’s Constitutional Court officially ruled that a ban on religious symbols in higher education does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights. However, several Belgian Universities disagreed with that ruling. These institutions have publicly said that they will openly resist the ban and welcome all students with or without headscarves. Some of these Universities are: the University of Brussels and the Catholic University of Leuven. Both institutions have reassured their students that they are welcome to wear the hijab if they please. “Regardless of gender, origin or social status, with or without a headscarf.”
After the June 4th ruling indicating that religious symbols are now not prohibited when it comes to higher education, thousands of people came together to protest against the hijab ban and the clear discrimination when it comes to Muslim women’s rights. These groups of people consisted of women’s rights activists, anti-racist groups, and university students.
Why Does It Matter? It’s Just a Piece of Clothing, Right?
Hijab to many Muslims is a symbol of faith and modesty. Thus, making it law to remove it in order to have access to higher education is beyond Islamophobic. Limiting those with different beliefs from basic rights is barbaric. A piece of clothing has threatened many “great” nations for centuries now. The hijab has been a hot topic in almost every country worldwide: They all want to get rid of it. What is so threatening about women covering their hair?
Banning the hijab implies that if you want to have access to anything or want to become anything great in life, you should not associate with Islam. It is that simple. Raising a new generation with the idea that Islam will limit them from accomplishing anything in life will force people to move away from the religion. This never-ending cycle of Islamophobia and media manipulation has hurt many Muslims who have contributed nothing but greatness and respect to their communities. Women wanting to cover their hair should not be viewed as a threat. There is no need to punish women for their choice of clothing that harms no one.
It’s Body Positivity Until a Muslim Woman Joins
Women’s rights groups have fought for many years to make it acceptable for ALL women to wear what they want. They have taken to the streets to demonstrate the right for women to dress how they please and to do what they want with their bodies. While many support and respect this movement, people still forget to include women who want to dress modestly. Women wanting to cover their hair should not be viewed as a political or religious game.
If you put two women together side by side, one wearing the hijab while the other is not, give them the same long-sleeved shirt and the same modest pants. I guarantee you that the one wearing the hijab will be perceived differently and viewed as a “threat.” On the other hand, the woman without the hijab will be perceived as normal. Not a second thought would pass someone’s mind.
A woman’s body is nobody’s business but her own. Those who choose to show their bodies and wear less should be respected and treated equally. Those who choose to cover their bodies and wear more should be respected and treated equally. We have come around to praise women who show their bodies to the fullest – but, we have yet to do the same for those who choose to be modest. Instead, we shame them and take away their rights to higher education.
It is time to start viewing the hijab as “powerful” and “beautiful” instead of “oppressed” and “dangerous.” The fight for women’s rights includes ALL women, not just the ones society picks and chooses.
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