By Suhaib Shahab

Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman arrested by morality police in Iran over refusing to wear hijab, died in prison on September 16 under suspicious circumstances. It gave western media and liberals opportunity to prove their point against Shari’ah and Islamic teachings, and especially to do propaganda against Iran, their political foe, and also fuel Islamophobia. The defiance in Iran in support of Amini appears to be the biggest ever in post-Revolution Iran. Social media not only in Iran but across the globe came out with mixed reactions to the incident even among Muslims. Very popular reaction on Twitter was of Rana Ayyub – writer of  the popular book ‘Gujarat Files’– when she tweeted a verse of the Qur’ān: “There is no compulsion in religion.”

People do have the right to criticise Iranian regime’s policy but they do not have the right to fuel Islamophobia or attack the values Islam preaches. To me Shari’ah is a way towards faithfulness, towards dignity, towards justice and liberty. It’s not a set of penal code as normally interpreted in the media but a way of life. There are principles of Shari’ah described in the Qur’ān and a perfect model implemented in Madinah back in the 7th century. We cannot pick and choose selectively and implement Shari’ah in bits and pieces without understanding the objectives of Shari’ah, the context in which it was implemented. Today the context is really different.

Dr Tariq Ramadan, a critical Muslim intellectual, believes in the notion that it’s no business of the state to tell a woman to take off her hijab nor can it impose on her to wear it. It’s an act of faith. And should come from within. It’s her right to choose whether to wear it or not. He argues further that there is no single country in the world today where Shari’ah is implemented the way it is supposed to be implemented. All Muslim majority countries in the world are selective in implementing Shari’ah.

I believe Muslims should not be reactive in defending Iranian regime’s policy of Hijab which resulted in the death of Amini in police custody. It doesn’t mean we must be ashamed of advocating our values of Hijab structured and described in the Qur’ān and prophetic traditions post this incident. Iranian regime’s policy of Hijab has nothing to do with Global Islam and we must understand to separate the two. Iranian model is not to be idealised. Or the Saudi model or that of any Muslim majority country in the world.

At the same time, we need not speak the language of the West and liberals who are grabbing the opportunity with both hands to win the debate against Islam, Shari’ah and our values of Hijab or are maligning Iran and its regime. Do we see the same energy from them when women are forced to take off their hijabs in India and elsewhere? Or are discriminated on that basis!

It’s also dismaying to see the way Iranian protestors removed their headscarves to burn them publicly in anger in a form of protest against the regime; for, hijab is revered and respected by Muslims around the world as an act of faith. We must learn when to engage and when not to and when to take an intellectual critical distance in different issues.

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