Religious Freedom and the Hijab Controversy: A Human Rights Perspective
Religious Freedom and the Hijab Controversy: A Human Rights Perspective
Nehaluddin Ahmad
Hjh Hanan Binti Dato Haji Abdul Aziz
Siti Nurdiyanah Binti Edirahman
Abstract: This article investigates the position of international human rights law in respect of Hijab (veil) worn by Muslim women to express their religious conviction. In Islam, Hijab is not only a significant aspect of a women’s faith, but it also denotes their religious affiliation as a form of submission to God. However, the regulation of the Hijab in some countries has raised complex human rights issues, particularly in the context of women’s rights to freedom of religion and its manifestation, equality, and non-discrimination. This article first examines the theological status of Hijab in Islam. In the West, the ban on wearing the Hijab has increased discrimination against Muslim women and restricted the movement of Muslim women as they are forced to withdraw themselves from public life and remain in the home. Second, it analyses the selected legislations, administrative actions, and cases concerning the wearing of Hijab in public places, most particularly in the countries of the European Union (EU). The article concludes that there is no justification under international human rights law to proscribe Muslim women from wearing Hijab. The absence of reasonable justification compatible with human rights law may impair the individual’s freedom to practice a religion. The general exclusion of women from work or other activities of life on account of the use of Hijab will lead to further discrimination.

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