International Journal of Business and Social Science

ISSN 2219-1933 (Print), 2219-6021 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijbss


“The Islamic and International Human Rights Law Perspectives of Headscarf: the Case of Europe”
Mr. Nisar Mohammad bin Ahmad

Europe is home to an estimated of around 7% or 49 million Muslims out of the total 735 million of its population. Being the second largest religious group after Christianity, Muslims play a decisive role in shaping the colourful spectrum of Europe?s so-called western society. Such a spectrum has contributed to debates on multiculturalism in Europe, particularly in the human rights issue of freedom of religion. While the existence of Islam has long been recognized by the constitutions of major European countries, the extent to which such religion could be practised is still debatable. The most notable issue is the wearing of religious dress, particularly the Islamic headscarf, in schools and public premises which was banned by some European countries. The Islamic headscarf debate has left major European countries in dilemma on whether to recognize it as a manifestation of freedom of religion or a merely religious symbol that neither required by religion nor does it compatible with the democratic society in Europe. Supporters of the right to wear the Islamic headscarf argue that the ban and similar prohibitions infringe a number of human rights. This article examines the issues by considering the Islamic and International Human Rights Law perspectives. In doing so, this article initially considers the various meanings and perceptions on headscarf, from which its position from Islamic perspectives could be drawn up. A brief comparative practice in  European states is also examined. To identify whether the wearing of headscarf has any human rights basis, this article explores the provisions from various International Human Rights instruments in particular from the perspectives of freedom of religion, freedom from discrimination and the rights to education and work. The article makes concluding remarks by affirming the profound significance that lies behind the controversial headscarf ban thus emphasizing on the essentiality of addressing the issue from multiple perspectives as the way forward.

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