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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UH chapter.

Secularism is good in politics and government, but imposing secularism on a population is oppressive because it erases differences and creates a more obliging society. Of course the question then is “what is so wrong with an obliging society?” the answer is that people are entitled to their individual rights. Although for the success of social contract theory, the individual must give up some of their rights for the benefit of the larger society, there occurs a balancing test there in order to draw a line that must not be crossed in regards to individual rights. This paper will respond narrowly to the section about banning the hijab in public schools and draw on historical and logical contexts to come to a conclusion.


The idea of open expression of religion exists in the texts of all religions and must be accorded deference if only because religion is a construct of individualism and personalism. One must be allowed to express oneself for the sake of self-growth and agency, therefore a purely secular society may serve to be oppressive. The way to solve the conflict between secularism and religious diversity is by cultivating both in separate spheres– the idea is to first acknowledge that some institutions are better served to be wholly secular (i.e. the government) and some institutions may allow religious expression as long as it allows it equally amongst all religions (i.e. wearing a cross or a hijab as open religious expression in public). The key is that all religions must be treated with equal fervor, which has proven to be extremely difficult.


One cannot conceivably ban the hijab but still feel justified in allowing the open display of crosses. One cannot cherry pick religions if one wishes to create a secular-minded society. Secularism is the absence of religion, all religion, and the inclusion of Christianity as an obvious resource of secularism is incorrect. While many European countries (like France) have laws which are based in Anglican Christian values, that does not mean that Christianity is automatically an arm of a fair society, it simply means that those that drafted the laws of the country found their inspiration from Christianity. Of course, there is also the argument that many Christian values translate into common sense; be that “don’t murder” or whatever else, there is overlap. However, idiocy is claiming that a law that says “don’t murder” is a Christian law and not simply a law that comes from societal evolution. Organized society has no place for open bloody murder in the streets because it causes direct and irrefutable harm to society as a whole– a woman choosing to cover her hair from her own interpretation of her religion is not causing direct and irrefutable harm and therefore can belong in society without entanglement.


The standard is whether or not there is measurable harm caused from an action which may then justify the deletion of that practice. The argument is that Islam is a violent religion, that the hijab is oppressive, that allowing Islam to exist in society will cause the society to become violent or oppressive. Now, the perception of Islam here is tinged by the actions of the few, by the actions of a politically motivated group operating under the guise of religion. Many a time, Christian organizations have used violence to push a political agenda under the guise of religion but it isn’t Christianity that is the violent religion– as if there’s a clear and obvious divide between the religiosity of the Crusades, the Spanish inquisition, chattel slavery, the forced assimilation of the Native Americans, and the bloody violence. When history is widely considered, the oppressive religion must be Christianity, however that isn’t the case because Christian historians make an effort to make a distinction between religion and the violent actors– other excuses were found, excuses that could conceivably be cured and had no holy standing (racism, ignorance, etc.). Only in Christianity is the over-zealous activities of some forgiven; every Muslim is vilified for the actions of our some.


Equating the hijab to fascism or, more directly, Nazism is flatly disrespectful. First of all, it equates the crimes of a political ideology to a population of individuals that keep a faith. There are a few things amiss with this but most notably, the idea that only in Islam is a political ideology the same as a religion. Islam is more often associated with the politics than perhaps any other religion– the condemnation of an entire religion because some political actors that keep that religion are evil is entirely contrary to how other religions (Christianity. Literally just Christianity.) have been treated in the past by Western civilizations. The otherization of religions that dare to be different creates an effect in which the religion is generally regarded with the same suspicion with which one regards actual vessels of violence and murder like the Nazis. Therefore, to stop the discrimination, to stop the erasure, the otherization must stop.

Ariz is the Managing Director and a Campus Correspondent at HerCampus at the University of Houston. She is a candidate for a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science on the Pre-Law track. In her free time, she likes to catch up on sleep, listen to Supreme Court arguments, and rewatch Game of Thrones and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.