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Can Hijab Become The Apple Of Discord In The Society?

Friday, June 16, 2017 - 02:38

Each of the republics of the former Soviet Union is passing the stage of forming and gaining the true statehood in its own way. Any problem concerning religion or believers can cause serious disasters in society, provided that the state approaches them formally. And then some extremist forces will take advantage of this circumstance to push their own agenda.


The constitutions of the former republics of Central Asia prescribe that they are secular states. As of today, a number of issues related to the religious life of Muslims create excessive nervousness in the society at least in these countries. This creates a real danger of conflict between believers and the state. The recent events in the Tatar village of Belozerye in the Republic of Mordovia (the Russian Federation) represent such a problem. Therefore, they not only deserve to be studied carefully. The authorities should also elaborate some well-thought-out solutions for getting out of this seemingly simple yet very delicate situation.


As is known, this rather prosperous Mordovian village is inhabited mainly by Tatars. To the best of their abilities, its residents try to both observe the secular laws and follow the requirements of the Sharia. Naturally, they engage their children in this. Thus, many schoolgirls and some female teachers that consider themselves Muslims naturally wear hijabs, including in school. According to the recent TV news, the school principal decided to dismiss the female Muslim teachers who did not agree to take off their hijabs in the workplace, and ordered the children to go to school without their head-scarves. According to local authorities, such actions of the school principal are of preventive nature, aimed at preventing religious extremism. By the way, the Minister of Education of Russia, O. Vasilieva, supported the Mordovian officials' ban hijabs in school. She believes that hijab does not belong in school because it's a religious attribute.


In all this situation, the more significant thing is not what happened in the Tatar village of Mordovia, but the reaction of the head of Chechnya to these events. He criticized the decision of the Mordovian authorities and the position of the Minister of Education of Russia, O. Vasilieva. In the actions of the Mordovian officials, R. Kadyrov saw an attempt on the religious duty of Muslim women to cover the head and neck with a handkerchief. And he explains all the fuss about this problem with the desire of some people to divert public attention from the real problems of schools. “Drug and alcohol addiction, crime, the teachers' systematic encroachment on the sexual inviolability of children... These are the problems that should bother all those who are at war with hijabs,” R. Kadyrov said. In his blog, he urged not to try to “give ammunition to those who are interested in splitting the Russian society and provoking resonant conflict situations.”


Referring to the statements of O. Vasilieva and R. Kadyrov, I would like to draw the readers' attention to the words of the Minister of Education. In her opinion, the hijab is just a “religious attribute.” It is also worth paying attention to the concerns of R. Kadyrov about a possible “split of the Russian society.” I believe that this remark of the Russian Minister of Education about the role of the women's shawl in Islam shows the officials' level of understanding of the nuances of the religious situation not only in Russia, but also in the states of Central Asia. The recognition of the hijab only as a religious attribute gives officials a reason to consider it an insignificant thing in a Muslim woman's apparel. They believe, she could give it up for the sake of matching the secular requirements of the state. However, Muslims have a completely different attitude to the hijab. R. Kadyrov expressed this point of view in tough yet quite convincing manner. He said he would not send his daughters to a school that did not allow them to cover their heads with shawls. For most Muslims – and especially in those regions where they represent the numerical majority of the population – the presence of a hijab in a woman's apparel is indisputable. It is not a whim, but a duty of a Muslim woman to cover her hair and neck. In this connection, the following conclusion immediately arises: if the hijab problem is left without serious attention, this “attribute” can actually bring certain elements of a split in our ranks.


Unfortunately, the hijab problem exists not only in Russia. Among Kyrgyz officials and ordinary citizens, there are both supporters and opponents of wearing hijabs in schools and higher educational institutions. The position of Kyrgyz officials displays the same phobias as the Mordovian officials' one. They also see the wearing of hijabs as a factor “increasing the Islamization of the population” that may lead to the “loss of the national identity of the Kyrgyz people.”


There is a formal ban on wearing hijabs by students in public schools in Kyrgyzstan; however, the real situation is different. As of today, there are pupils who wear head-scarves both in the capital's schools and in remote rural areas. To avoid troubles with the teachers, some schoolgirls take them off at school, and cover their heads again after the classes. If you have a look at schoolgirls who wear hijabs, there are several groups among them. The first group consists of those whose parents consider themselves Muslims and regularly read the namaz. In such families, girls usually accept the rules of behavior of their parents and wear hijabs to school or university. Another category of girls wearing hijabs are those who already have an understanding of Islam and the requirements of Islam to women. They say they wear hijabs because of their beliefs. There is also one more group of girls who like to be different and look like the heroines of the movie “Suleiman the Magnificent.” In addition, among girls who wear hijabs, there are those who do not have a particularly firm faith, but have concluded for themselves: the hijab demonstrates chastity and increases their chances for a successful personal life.


A preliminary study of the problem of hijabs in the Kyrgyz schools demonstrates that girls who wear them are poorly involved in the classroom and school activities. As a rule, such girls do not attend physical education classes at all. This points to one thing: neither the girls in hijabs nor their parents have sufficient knowledge about the fact that the hijab does not in any way restrict their right way of life. Suffice it to say that Iranian schoolgirls, despite wearing Muslim clothes, do participate in all school activities, including the mandatory physical education classes. There are Iranian girls who have achieved high sports results while still observing all the norms of the Sharia in their attire. The problem of the passivity of Kyrgyz schoolgirls in hijabs is apparently the fact that no one can intelligibly explain what can or can not be done while wearing the hijab. Parents simply do not have enough religious education, and competent clergymen do not conduct lessons in schools. In such a way, our society obtains ardent supporters of its secularism who categorically refuse to recognize the appropriateness of religious attributes in schools, as well as those who consider the ban on wearing hijabs in schools as a violation of the constitutional human rights.


As of today, the problem of hijabs in schools, universities and state institutions has not yet acquired a highly controversial character in Kyrgyzstan. The country's authorities have repeatedly expressed their opinion on this issue; however, they still do not have a clear position. So, the officials of the Ministry of Education of Kyrgyzstan are trying to find a middle ground in solving this problem. They recommend introducing a school uniform for students; at the same time, they do not object to a “neatly tied shawl,” but not a hijab.


One of the current candidates for the presidency of the country, the prime minister of the republic, said at the 2015 Collegiate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, “Kyrgyzstan should openly oppose the tendency among our people to dress in turbans, dambals (a semblance of trousers) and hijab.” In 2016, the head of the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims of Kyrgyzstan, M. Toktomushev, spoke about the preservation of religious values and traditional features of the Kyrgyz people. At the meeting of the Defense Council on November 3, 2014, President of Kyrgyzstan A. Atambayev noted, “The title of a Muslim must be confirmed not by clothing, but by actions, purity of thoughts, moral conduct.” The Kyrgyz president stressed, “If someone imposes the so-called Islamic clothing – hijab and a gray dymbal – on our people, will there come a time when all those who wear Kyrgyz national clothes or modern clothes comfortable in everyday life will be called unbelievers? The Koran has no concept regarding which kind of clothing is Muslim and which is not. Islam only demands the clothes to be clean and neat.”


The information about hijabs officially declared by representatives of the state has not clarified the actual position of the state on this issue. On the one hand, the rights of believing citizens of Kyrgyzstan must be respected in accordance with the Constitution of the country. At the same time, everything depends on the secularity of the school and the state itself.


One of the easiest ways out of this situation is the following. Given the intricacies of this problem, it is possible not to pay attention to it. To pretend that girls in hijabs in schools and universities are a common phenomenon for a society in which the vast majority of people are Muslim. Worth recalling, our MPs have not only organized a prayer room in the building of the legislative body, but are also trying to officially extend the lunch break time for the collective fulfillment of the Friday prayer. For some reason, these officials do not have the intelligence to think about the conformity of their actions with the constitutional norm on the secularity of Kyrgyzstan. Against the backdrop of high-ranking officials, the schoolgirl are the weaker category of our citizens, whom you can try to put in some kind of a framework, demanding that they to go to school with a bare head.


The creative approach to the Islamic theme in schools and universities in Kyrgyzstan is viewed as a more correct one in the current situation. In particular, it would be optimal to give schoolgirls a thorough idea not only about the hijab, but also about the general behavior of a Muslim woman in society, her appearance, responsibility for relatives, rules of behavior. As of today, it is obvious not only in Kyrgyzstan that many people who consider themselves Muslim pay more attention to the external signs testifying that they are believers. Men have begun to wear beards, Muslim hats, short pants; some have even begun to wear clothes resembling the Pakistani fashion. Women put on hijabs. On the streets of Bishkek, you can occasionally see the local ladies in niqabs; it is an apparel completely covering the face, leaving only slits for the eyes. Such clothes are more characteristic of women of Saudi Arabia, and not of Kyrgyz women. And that's why it causes certain disputes in the society. Given the fact that even very young ladies wear niqabs, there are doubts that they have a sufficient knowledge about Islam, a belief that gives them a reason to dress like that. The author was familiar with two young families in which women wore niqabs only because it was the demand of their husbands. And their husbands (by the way, former sportsmen) outwardly corresponded to the image of a modern Muslim: a chapana, a cap, a beard, and short trousers. However, their daily behavior was not very god-fearing for some reason. On the contrary, these guys' behavior rather compromised the image of believers.


Returning to the topic of hijabs in schools: apparently, it is advisable to note once again that the external form should not prevail over the inner content. It is important not only to instill high moral qualities in the students, but also for adults to have such moral qualities. As of today, supporters of radical religious views defend their positions by imposing their views on others. This emphasizes the fact that modern secular society can not be highly moral by definition. That is why it is mired in corruption. The main task of any secular authority is to preserve itself by all means. Given these circumstances, and the fact that the state has already formulated the Concept of its policy in the religious sphere, there remains little to do: namely, to carefully and consistently organize the work with both teachers and students in schools and universities in order to avoid religious radicalization of the younger generation.

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