The rapid and drastic process of secularisation in Europe over the last few decades has not diminished the unease with which it views Islam and Muslims. Most British Muslims consider religion the most important thing in their lives, as per most surveys. The right to cultural difference has become an obligation for a majority of Muslims in the West. The basic paradigm of secularisation — that the more a society modernises, the more secular it becomes — has failed. The higher the educational qualification of a Muslim woman in the West, the greater her inclination towards religion. One reason may be that women see their Islamic identity as a sign of moral superiority over their non-Islamic environment.
Until the late 19th century, the ‘hijab’ was neither a central nor universal practice in the Islamic world. The full ‘hijab’ was traditionally worn by aristocratic women as a mark of status in Egypt. At the same time, we must understand that Muslim women feel the ‘hijab’ frees them from the constraints of some aspects of western modernity. The demand that they abandon the ‘hijab’ will only exacerbate the fear among some that the West is bent on the destruction of Islam, and make women cling more fiercely to the ‘hijab’ which, for them, symbolises resistance to oppression.
K.S.M. Sheik Mohamed,