The Islamic Post Blog

Avoiding Head Scarf Controversy, Confrontation by Khalida
January 2, 2009, 7:47 am
Filed under: Interfaith, January Volume I- 2009, National | Tags: ,

By Khalida Khaleel

Islamic Post Staff Writer

Hostility is from ignorance; we can do so much to change it.
Linda Valentine, an American of African descent, was found in contempt of court when she refused to abandon the khimar, the Islamic headscarf worn by Muslim ladies. Her December arrest and jailing came after entering a Georgian courthouse, for the traffic violation of a family member. The incident brought national outrage to the surface and justified lamentations of civil libertarians in these, our United States.
The Douglasville Police Department and also the judge who sentenced Mrs. Valentine to 10 days in jail are scheduled to undergo “sensitivity and cultural diversity training.”  “We never want this to happen again,” said Police Chief Joe Whisenant, at a news conference. “It’s not our intent to embarrass anybody.” Nevertheless, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) continues to denounce the incident, citing at least three other cases, including one in which another Muslim woman was asked to remove her their headscarf at the same county courthouse. The group insists the judge’s actions have “violated the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct, Title III of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to freedom of religion and equal protection under the law.”
Incidents of this nature are not restricted to Georgia. In 2005, a Ph.D. candidate named Jameelah Medina, also an American Muslim was arrested in Los Angeles county for having an invalid train pass; charges were later dismissed. She is now suing the county, with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, with the aim of waiving the normal detainment procedure of removing headgear (waived for Muslim ladies).
Muslims should continue to resort to legal measures when their rights are violated.
Although many profile people who have Islamic names or dress and perceive them as threatening, to retaliate with the use of expletives such as verbal, facial or body expressions  is unbecoming and counterproductive. At times, the aggressor walks away feeling that such suspicions about Muslims have been confirmed (i.e., they’re full of hatred, have hidden agendas, unpatriotic and uncooperative). In other situations, such behavior has landed covered ladies into more demeaning situations than the original confrontation: confined and stripped of their rights (and clothing).
Before getting ‘verbal’ with a xenophobic person, it may help to remember the example of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States over forty years ago: Discrimination  was not predicated on something a group of African Americans had actually done wrong.
The prejudiced tendencies are similar to the deeds of those who oppose Muslims living in the United States and other Western countries; however, we all have to live with the violent legacy of minority extremists within our midst as well as abroad. While ignorance and fear fuel the arrogant person to lump all Islamic co-religionists together as ‘us against them,’ still it is up to the Muslims, to diplomatically act upon the understanding that, to some, a khimar, or beard, and long clothes do represent a threat.

Diffusing Prejudice with the practice of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him.)
The situation of American Muslims can also be compared to the companions of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad, peace be upon him, while living in the holy city of Makkah (Mecca, in Saudi Arabia) 1400 years ago. The racists of that time accused the Muslim converts of being traitors to the dominant culture and religion of the people, of that time: paganism. In a similar manner, after 9/11, the loyalty of American Muslims is being questioned.
Muslims should not allow this situation to weaken their love and loyalty to their country. The life of the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) was colored with such unquestionable loyalty and trustworthiness, as to earn him the title Al-Amin, the Trustworthy, amongst the non-Muslims who, although refusing to accept Islam right away, regularly deposited their money with him for safekeeping.
It should not be forgotten that the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad, peace be upon him, his family and many companions, bore an extreme amount of violent persecution and every imaginable abuse, but never lost hope that the hearts of the people would change. Towards this end, he preached day and night. Ultimately, through the patience, love, honor, confidence, broad-mindedness and compassion of the character of the Holy Last Messenger (peace be upon him), coupled with extreme love for humanity and a willingness to teach, many accepted Islam, and many bridges of understanding were built.

olerance starts with mutual understanding. Ladies of the United Muslim Christian Forum join hands at a rally outside the United Nations in  New York, 2008.

Tolerance starts with mutual understanding. Ladies of the United Muslim Christian Forum join hands at the UMCH rally outside the United Nations in New York, 2008.


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