Several years ago when the name “Borris Johnson” was largely unheard of, particularly in Muslim circles, a meeting was set to discuss Muslim affairs in general. He wanted to meet Muslim students on campus to guage their feelings, to get to know them better. As ever I did my reading regarding this man. His ancestors were ministers in the Ottoman Caliphate. He had a very direct method of speech. And had also been involved in a 4 year affair Petronella Wyatt.
In his usual bombastic method of speech he asked, “why do the women cover themselves up”. After genuinely trying to explain the wisdom behind the hijab, that it is not just a scarf but includes everything between male and female interactions and the rules are incumbent on both men and women, he uttered words to the following effect: “what a load of rubbish”. A this point I went into battle mode. You see genuine criticism is one thing, insulting is another. Being the young blood that I was, I decided a sterner prescription was required. So I retorted:
“Not so long ago you had an affair, despite being married. Why was that? What attracted you to this other woman? How did your wife feel? This is why we observe the rules of Hijab.”
An awkward silence ensued. It was hard-hitting, because throughout the rest of our little meeting his eyes were firmly fixed on me Terminator-style. The message it seemed, penetrated the inner-recesses of his heart and touched a nerve.
Fast-forward many years later and now we know he has been involved in another affair, and revelations have also come out that he has also fathered a child outside of his marriage with a City Hall advisor.
Jon Snow recently came into the spot light when said the following in a recent interview:
“Sex comes into every evaluation of a woman, there’s no doubt about it… It’s there. Once you’ve established a friendship or a working relationship with a woman, it’s parked. But it’s an interesting barrier. When you’ve gone through it and arrived at the other side, it’s never a problem again. Well I’m not saying it is a problem at all, it’s rather a delicious thing really, ‘what might have been?’ or ‘what could be’.”
While the above sounds like a frisky old man mentally masturbating, the general thrust of his comments smacks of reality if the statistics related to sexual harassment are anything to go by. This aspect has been handled rather eloquently by Shaykh Haytham al-Haddad so I need not dwell on this point.
There are some points I do wish to make here, however. When it comes to practices which are theologically established as being part of a religion, such as sex-segregation at Islamic events, and which do not negatively impact the collective rights of an individual or a group, the establishment, such as the one Borris Johnson represents, are quick to shoot it down and censure it. Yet we entrust the formulation of policy for protection against sexual offences, latent co-worker sexual harassment and indecency even in “professional environments” to these very same figureheads who can offer no real solution to these problems and in some cases indulge in indecencies themselves. Muslims need to maintain confidence in their beliefs. Beliefs which have been divinely ordained and which are part of the Muslim psyche. It is an integral part of the Muslim lifestyle.
From this I would like to make my final point. The constant barrage of attacks needs to be dealt with as it is, an attack on a community, a minority. Regardless of whether Muslims internally accept a legitimate opinion or not all Muslims should support each other’s right to express and practice their opinion. This differs from an internal debate. Fiqhi debates can resume and those issues which should legitimately be allowed or prohibited based upon the principles of the four juristic schools can be discussed but the issue is one of interference. Muslims cannot let any external, third party interfere and dictate which opinion should be adopted. This is something that Muslim jurists in a Caliphate warned Muslim rulers against. What of the case of Muslims living in a non-Muslim vicinity? When the Niqab is attacked the, non-niqabis should support. When the Hijabis are attached the non-Hijabis and niqabis should support. The truth is the same as it has always been. The attack and censure of one of many unique Islamic practices which comprises our identity as a Muslim will result in a subsequent Islamic practice being attacked. The key is halt the attack at the first step.
May Allah subhanahuwata ‘ala give us strength to recognise hypocrisy and confront the tide of discriminatory tones and statements being espoused against us. Ameen.