CAIRO – A prominent Britain-based Muslim scholar has urged New Zealand Muslim women to take off face-veil to avoid harassment and debates that have erupted recently in the country.
"Covering the face, according to the Qur’an, is not mandatory,” Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, a prominent Muslim scholar, told the Sunday Star-Times newspaper.
The influential Pakistani scholar, on a visit to New Zealand, was commenting on the latest debates that have recently surrounded Muslim face-veil.
One veiled student was left standing on the street in tears in May after she was ordered off a crowded bus because the driver objected to her covered face.
Another driver from the same company, NZ Bus, ordered another woman to remove her veil.
The new veil row adds to controversy stirred currently in New South Wales in neighboring Australia over the Muslim full face-veil or niqab.
Last July, a law change was approved in New South Wales to grant police officers the power to ask for the removal of face-veils during routine car stops.
Out of the 45,000 Muslims in New Zealand, only 150 wear face veils.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
As for niqab, the majority of Muslim scholars believe that a woman is not obliged to cover her face or hands.
They believe that it is up to every woman to decide whether to take on the face-cover or not.
The Muslim scholar insisted that Muslim women should abide by the law governing the country they live in, as long as it does not contradict with Islamic teachings.
"For women living here, it's not a Qur’anic obligation,” Sheikh Qadri, a 60-year-Sufi preacher, said.
“They should follow the law of the land."
The hot issue was further debated at a meeting of Muslim women when a spokeswoman, Regina Rasheed, said that a woman choice to wear face-veil or not should remain a respected personal choice.
Commenting on Rasheed, Tahir-ul-Qadri said citizenship was a "covenant".
He added that face-veils were used when Muslims were harassed or felt uneasy, neither is the case in New Zealand.
"Women [in New Zealand] do not feel uneasy," he added.
The niqab debate is not the first hot issue the Britain-based scholar tackles.
Last May, he issued a fatwa condemning suicide bombings as a brazen violation of peaceful Islamic tenets.
Known for his unequivocal condemnation of terrorism, Sheikh Qadri has issued several fatwas against suicide bombings and violence against innocent people.
He is famous for his emphasis on promoting integration and interfaith dialogue to tackle Islamophobia in the West.
Last year, the influential scholar issued a fatwa condemning terrorism and the violent ideology of Al-Qaeda group.
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