The hijab/head veil/khimar is a garment that is worn to cover a woman’s head, with some primary and secondary religious texts suggesting its compulsion. This can derive from the Hadith, the Torah or the Old Testament with regards to Judeo-Christian text, however in today’s world Muslim communities have presented continual and consistent adherence to the veiling of women’s hair. According to multiple scholars, they deem this compulsory for women who have reached adulthood or puberty. What does this imply? It implies that even from the most conservative opinions, children do not need to wear the hijab.
Well I could stop writing there, however the veiling of children does occur, insinuating possible blurred lines between children and adults. St Stephen’s Primary school in Newham (London), recently banned children under 8 from wearing the hijab, is this a step in the right direction or a ploy to target Muslims?
The veiling of women according to scripture and scholarly opinions is to mask a grown woman’s sexual appeal and beauty therefore, safeguarding her from pre-/extra-marital sexual interactions. Also, allowing her mind to be her source of identity opposed to her physical appearance. These are just common opinions, various explanations include obedience to God, a general sense of modesty as an act of divinity opposed to sociological reasoning, or a method of displaying religious identity. The moment children acquire the veil, the more blurred the lines are between adulthood and childhood. Children are innocent creatures that do not have the understanding or knowledge of adult matters such as sexual attraction hence I vehemently oppose the idea of them being exposed to the complicated world of adulthood. You can disagree with this and claim you’re attempting to instil inside them Islamic values, however isn’t teaching the fundamental principles of Islam and morals sufficient? Isn’t teaching a child how to pray or read the Qur’an sufficient? What surprises me is when I enquire mothers who support veiling young children, the answers I receive is ‘I tell her to wear it so it becomes a habit’, ‘so she can get used to the hijab in adulthood’, ‘so she won’t question it later’. My to answer is, why resort to indoctrinating strategies to fulfil your selfish aims? If you truly believe in the importance of the head veil, explaining its importance to a young adult serves a fairer strategy as they have the adult ability of intellectual reasoning, therefore it will be purely their decision to retain the tradition of hijab or not. By ‘habitually’ placing a cloth on a child’s head will not provide them understanding of the concept of adult-female modesty as they simply do not possess the same ability of logical decision making. I have observed many women choosing to adorn the hijab in adulthood and many to uphold the values of modesty without the head veil, based on their sole decision and reasoning. This is their absolute right. You can place a hijab on a child throughout their childhood, bear in mind one day there will be a possibility of removing it permanently.
I am not stating this is the common practice of Muslims, however a small cross-section of the community continue this notion of veiling children. Many grown adult women struggle with the head veil, with many claiming it is not a religious requirement ..This issue is a complex one even for grown women, why burden children with a notion that is not important for them yet.
However, despite my personal position regarding this matter, I sincerely acknowledge the right to freedom of expression. I do believe St Stephen’s school trampled on the foundation principles of liberty and tolerance to religious diversity. For an example, many young boys adorn skull caps in the Jewish and Muslim communities and face no opposition from the wider society, therefore this action seems to target young girls on their religion and their gender. Imposing a clothing-orientated ban shows hypocrisy and discrimination towards the Muslim community, opposed to other religious communities, as in there is no school ban directed towards Sikh children or Jewish children in the UK. Furthermore, where does society draw its lines on children clothing? Many female children’s clothes may imitate the fashion of adults, one may suggest that this is a violation towards the realm of childhood alongside the adornment of religious garments. Additionally, some may deem the current children clothing options inappropriate and sexualised.
As you can see this notion of banning the hijab from children is a complex discussion, possibly opening a can of worms for Western society by highlighting its discriminatory preferences towards some religious communities opposed to others. Again, my personal opinion is against the veiling of children due to multiple issues that may arise, however I support the right for parents to make this decision with care as that is their liberty and freedom.
Thanks for reading,