In a recent TV interview, Hazim Abu Ismail, a candidate for Egypt’s presidency with affiliations to both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis, made clear that the hijab, or veil for women, would be enforced under his leadership. More importantly, along the way he exposed his general views—that there is little freedom under Islam. Especially telling is the military analogy he used: being a Muslim is like being a member of the military; you must obey all its dictates, including dress codes. He fails to add, however, that, whereas much military service is voluntary, in Islam, if you are simply born to Muslim parents, then you have joined Islam—whether you like it or not. Hence, all the persecution of Muslim apostates. But, as Abu Ismail puts it, “This is Islam.” Translated excerpts of the interview follow:
Host: You have already begun to try to impose a particular dress code for us.
Abu Ismail: I’ve begun to? It’s the Lord of the Worlds [Allah] who said so. I have nothing to do with it!
Host: Allah left it for me to decide as a personal freedom.
Abu Ismail: Who said that? Where’d you get that from. See, that’s the whole point: If you claim that Allah considers it your personal freedom, show me your reference? Nobody has ever said that—except for people who have no understanding of Sharia.
Host: There is “no coercion in religion” [Koran 2:256].
Abu Ismail: This is concerning the creed, you don’t force someone to convert to Islam.
Host: So when Allah in the Koran mentions “religion,” it is synonymous with “creed”?
Abu Ismail: Exactly.
Host: So when He says “today I have perfected your religion for you” [Koran 5:3], He is only talking about the “creed.”
Abu Ismail: Yes; for example, when you say “no coercion to join the Military Academy,” it means that you are free to join or not—but if you do join, then you are obliged to wear their uniform, to attend their classes, to attend the training with them, and to obey their leader.
Host: There is a problem here—shall I say to the unveiled woman who wants to avoid hijab that she should change her creed?
Abu Ismail: Exactly, bravo. If she is a Muslim. You see, this is the difficulty; this is Islam. Does she want to be a Muslim and not obey Allah’s rules? Let them say so; that’s all I ask; let them be honorable and just speak up.
A bold challenge, considering that “speaking up” about not wanting to follow “Allah’s rules” in Muslim countries can get one attacked, hounded, imprisoned, and killed.