Regarding the Hijab issue, a couple of days ago I came across this website (http://www.headscarf.net) which for those who have some time to spare and interested in finding out whether Hijab is obligatory (fard) or not, can spare a few hours to explore this outstanding encyclopaedic website about every thing "Hijabic"
Those who believe in shoyukh and ulama note in particular the eloquent views of the late Dr Zaki Badawi. If you want justification that Hijab is cultural and not religious see if you can work out what this sheikh is saying. I quote "..... Dr. Zaki Badawi who you will recall declared that the headscarf is not obligatory in Islam. A statement that in the mid 1990's caused fanatic Muslims to brand Dr. Badawi 'a criminal', and 'a forger' after he had gone on television in Holland to tell Muslim women that it is not necessary to wear the hijab as it is not required in Islam. The Issue of the Veil in Islam has been subject to much interpretation by the classical scholars of long ago and also by modern day scholars. Some scholars in their enthusiasm to try and prove that the Veil is compulsory in Islam have used a weak hadith - one that is not of proven authenticity. "
I also quote a female from one of the articles listed here "Muslim women need to stop fooling themselves. This hejab and burqa is not for religion, only for men to have power over them. Open your eyes I want to say to them." You see, it is not only me who think that men are the source of the Hijab problem :)
Most of the comments appeared in Q-news magazine which was founded by Kenyan journalist Fuad Nahdi, whom I knew in the eighties in London when we were at the same university, although my studies were far from journalistic. Q-news was staffed by either Muslim converts or young ladies from the sub continent (Pakistan and India). Note that most (if not all) of the comments were made by this group of people and they reflect their cultural experience and point of view. It was a progressive Islamist magazine which was founded on the pillars of western journalistic standards and ethics. It started in the late 80's in a four page black & white newsletter form which I still have in my possession the first few issues. Remember that in this period Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) considered music "Haram" (I am glad he is back on track with his guitar and wonderful voice) and Sheikh Omar Abdulrrahman (the convicted terrorist) was preaching freely in London and in the houses of some Libyan Millionaires who lived here at the time!
I will keep repeating that what we have in Libya is one version of Islam and not the only or best Islam. Every one knows that there are many sects and groupings belonging to this religion and the version we have existed purely for historical reasons, just like the others, not because it is the one and only!
In the past, when people gather within one place of land and form a society it was possible to be immune from outside influences which allows them to protect themselves and their culture within their boundaries, at least for a while. This situation normally changes when they are conquered and occupied by another group of people who take their land and enforce their way of life, religion and culture leading to a different society being formed. Muslims were a superpower when they occupied most of the known world at that time. They remained in some areas where they enforced their religion and culture; in others they were thrown out and lost the influence they once had. Had Isabella and Ferdinand not gathered a more powerful army to kick us out, Spain probably would be a Muslim country today and Sunni Maliki as well! Also, had the Fatimid state الفاطميين not got defeated around a thousand years ago in North Africa, we would probably be all Shia today!! But that is history, we cannot change it, we can only learn from it.
Today things are different. The whole world comes to you even if you did not want to take the trouble and go to it. You are forced to takes notice of certain things which otherwise you would not have bothered to notice. Civilisations grow and prosper when they encapsulate all human experiences in a new form that proves superior and more beneficial in meeting the needs of human beings. This is what the Western civilisation had done over the past few hundred years which led to its domination, as we know it today. For Islam and Muslims, their civilisation and superpower status passed away long time ago, and all what we have left of it is a reminder that it once existed and that it was great, which no body can deny. It was great because we presented to the world better value systems and practical solutions which helped mankind in the process of human evolution to land us where we are today. But that was in the past and today we have hardly anything to present to the world which they do not have. In fact, we import almost everything from outside our borders to keep us alive and kicking! Many Muslims still live in the dream that we are still great and deserve to be treated as great, even though they can see that our civilisation is dead and exists only in the museums and in library books. I am not asking for anyone to convert themselves and become westerners, but I would like to raise the question how can you survive if you cannot comprehend that the world had changed? Don’t you know that unless you change you are doomed!!
Sometimes I feel it is futile to argue with certain kinds of people, who think that what they believe in is set in stone and hence they leave you no room for constructive discussion. They think it is only them who matter as if they are the only important living creature that counts. But I learnt, sometimes in a hard way, that controversial and contentious issues need to take their natural course of time and a lot of effort to become acceptable or at least tolerable. In other times it is the shock factor which does the trick.