Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Putin’s Claim that the Hijab is Alien to Russian Islam ‘Idiotic’ and Dangerous, Muslim Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 25 – Vladimir Putin’s suggestion last week that the hijab has “no place” in “traditional [Russian] Islam” is not only incorrect but “idiotic,” a Muslim commentator says, because it will lead to the further “radicalization” of the umma rather than its further integration into the Russian community.

            At his press conference, the Russian president said that “in our culture – and when I say ‘in ours’ I have in mind our traditional Islam, there are no hijabs.” Further, he observed that Islamic authorities abroad say there is no need for them and asked rhetorically “why should we introduce alien traditions? Why?” (www.interfax-religion.ru/islam/?act=news&div=49356).

             Reacting to this statement, Anastasiya Fatima Yezhova, an ethnic Russian Muslim, says that Putin’s words about the traditional female head scarf are “idiotic” from the word go.  “Traditional Islam, whether Russian, Indonesian or Egyptian, considers the hijab obligatory.” The Koran and the Sunna are very clear on that point (www.mesoeurasia.org/archives/12335).

            Implying that the hijab is a threat to national security, as Putin’s words appear to do, she continues, entails the danger that this may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, one in which such attitudes will “radicalize Muslims” and make them into “a threat not to the security of Russia but to the security of the regime.”

            That is because, after Putin’s comment, every cop and every official of United Russia “and every petty chief will consider it his Holy Duty Before the Motherland to suppress any young girl who wears a hijab: to put her on a list, to prohibit her actions, to expel her [from one or another institution], and finally to put her in jail.”

            Putin’s words and Yezhova’s reaction come on the heels of the much hyped cased of a school director in Stavropol kray who banned hijabs and whose actions led to expressions of support for the re-introduction of standard uniforms for school children there and across the Russsian Federation (kavpolit.com/xvatit-kopatsya-v-bele-musulman/).

            But both the one and the other caused some Muslim leaders to seek to find a middle way, one that would satisfy the demands of their faith without enflaming public or official opinion in the Russian Federation about the hijab or other Islamic customs and by extension about the umma more generally.

            According to an article in “Vzglyad,” Moscow Mufti Albir Krganov, the chairman of the Muslim Spiritual Adminsitration (MSD) of Chuvashia, the problem has been blown out of proportion.  While Islam does require the hijab for adult women, it does not impose a similar requirement on younger girls. They can wear scarves as Orthodox girls do (www.vz.ru/news/2012/12/20/613032.html).

            Krganov noted that “the hijab and the Muslim scarf are different things and that Putin spoke [only] about hijabs.” Consequently, the mufti continued, neither Muslims nor non-Muslims should “politicize” this issue. Instead, they should find common ground in a common school uniform—with scarves for girls.

            Farid Asadullin, the deputy head of the Muslim Spiritual Directorate (MSD) of the European Part of Russia, agreed. Wearing head coverings, he said, is “a tradition which is rooted both among Orthodox women and among Muslims” and for both it is “a symbol of moral behavior.” 

            “Wearing a hijab or a Muslim scarf is thus a reflection of the fulnessof faith to which any religious tradition strives be it Orthodox, Islamic or Jewish … This in principle is the norm which has been adopted in Muslim society from time out of mind.” It is no threat to anyone who understands the nature of faith.

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