The chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams has advised Muslim women to remove their headscarves to avoid faith hate attacks.
Dr Zaki Badawi said that in the current climate, the hijab might invite harm, whereas they had been designed to identify women as Muslim and thus protect them from molestation.
The Metropolitan Police have said that faith hate crimes increased six-fold in the three weeks after the 7 July bombings in London.
But a Muslim women's group, the Assembly for the Protection of the Hijab, said wearing the traditional Islamic scarf was a duty and compromising was giving in to violence.
Do you agree with Dr Badawi? Should Muslim women remove their headscarves? Are women who wear the hijab more vulnerable to attacks? Are you a Muslim woman? Have you or will you be removing your hijab?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received so far:
I am with the rights of all women. These are their rights that no racist can take from them! Muslim women are very brave and I believe they will survive in this situation. Islam is a most wonderful religion that gives us the choice to not wear the Hijab if our life is at risk. I am proud that I am Muslim and I will wear the Hijab no matter what.
What's all the fuss about? If a Muslim woman wants to wear the Hijab that's fine, it's a personal choice. If she wants to compromise her own safety against ignorant members of our society, be it on her own head. Dr Badawi is giving sensible advice for the safety of Muslim women He is not forcing anyone to abandon the Hijab. Lets keep the situation in perspective.
Rav inder Kaur, Belverdere, Kent
It is up to the woman. If she feels that she should remove it, let her. If she doesn't want to, let her keep it. Surely personal safety should be the decision of the person? Dr Badawi is trying to suggest a way to keep these women safe but in the end the choice is theirs.
Sarah-Michelle Saunders, Newport, South Wales
I agree with Dr Badawi; there shouldn't be a government policy to ban Hiabs (this the individual's choice), but in the current climate with irresponsible people on both sides, there is a huge security risk.
Abu Shaheed, UK
Hijab probably was an effective measure to curb sexual harassment back in the beginning is Islam, disguised as a command from above. This may still be the case in some countries but is no longer a public issue of concern in the Western world. Women should not still cover because of something that may have happened 1300 years ago.
Bush/Blair said they would not change their external policy an inch after the London terrorist attacks, because by doing so it would be granting victory to the terrorists. So, wouldn't it be granting victory to street terrorists if women removed their headscarves? They should keep on leading their normal lives in the same way that every other Londoner did, and should not bow on to pressure from third parties.
How can this be construed as discrimination against Muslim women when it's at the suggestion of a Muslim cleric who only seems to have their personal safety in mind?
Islamic veils should not be removed and Islamic women should be left alone to embrace their religion and its practices. The next thing to be suggested will be that all men must be clean shaven so that their full facial features can be seen!!
Alan Glenister, Bushey
Dr Badawi has no right in giving a fatwa out against what the religion has asked women to do so. If taking the scarf off was allowed, the Prophet (pbuh) would have told his people to take their scarves off 1400 years ago when they were under much worse conditions.
Moahmmad Nejad, London
The hijab is my identity as a Muslim woman; it can never be taken away. Let's stop diverting from the true issues!
Dr Riffat Majeed, Hertfordshire
No. It is a fundamental right of a human being to practise their faith in a peaceful and appropriate manner. Muslim women should not be coerced to remove the veil simply because of some misguided notion on the part of others. Will nuns be asked to remove their religious clothing and Sikh men asked to remove their turbans next? Where is this thinking going I ask? It seems like discrimination against Muslim women.
Javaid Ramzan, Oldham UK
No one was trying to take away anyone's rights. Badawi was simply allowing Muslim women to feel they had a choice. He should not be criticised for it. Once again, however, there are those who seem angry that a Muslim would dare to say that the Koran says it's a choice not a command to wear hijab.
I do not agree with Dr Badawi. Why should we bow for what some brainwashed terrorists did? It is very strange that in a democracy people even come up with these ideas. As long as the women wants to wear the veil, she should, and not remove it because of fear of how others react. Removing the veil is only increasing the anti-western hate, so let us not make this mistake.
Fatemeh, Stockholm, Sweden
Muslim females should decide for themselves whether they wish to wear the hijab or discard it. It is up to the individual to determine what poses them a threat to their personal safety and act accordingly. However, we should never prejudice an individual on the basis of what they wear, their religion etc. This is how many problems begin.
Katrina, Hastings, England
The advice provided has a sound basis in Islamic jurisprudence. The hijab is to protect women, where the hijab becomes a potential source of harm it is permissible for it to be removed.
We're not letting a minority of extremist bombers affect our way of life in London, so why should we let a minority of racist idiots affect it? The racists do not need to see a Hijab in order to target someone; they are stupid and scared enough to base their hate merely on the colour of someone's skin.
None of us should bow down to the ignorance of others and for Muslim females to remove their head scarves would be doing exactly that!
Tanya Wescombe, Australia
The various replies rather neatly illustrate the "problem" with the Koran (and indeed the Bible). One person thinks wearing the hijab is "essential" and "ordered by God", yet another claims quite the opposite. I'm not a Muslim, I have no knowledge of the Koran, yet people who claim to have that knowledge are telling me different stories about the same item of clothing.
John, London, UK
I believe as in France that head scarves should be removed. This would apply equally to all religions. People welcomed to this country should abide by our traditions and rules. It also avoids hate attacks and makes life for everyone better. There will be less of "them and us". One of the big issues today is the integration of Muslims into the British way of life and this is one way that a happier integration can be achieved.
Peter Brightman, London
I think perhaps what Dr Badawi was getting at is that there is no compulsion for women to wear the hijab in Islam. Many Muslim women choose to wear it and that is their right. Perhaps Dr Badawi was saying that if women feel threatened while wearing it, they should feel free to remove it without feeling they are doing something wrong by their religion.
Adam, London, UK
Whilst I understand the reasons behind Dr Badawi's advice and appreciate our current political climate, nobody should have to forego basic human right to practice their religion as they see fit (when it does not infringe on other's human rights) because of other's ignorant, malicious, bigoted and intolerant behaviour. Our focus should be on educating people, not working around them
Sarah Kean-Price, Gloucester, UK
I think they should pick what they want to do for themselves, it doesn't really matter to me if they remove them or not it is after all there heads.
Lee, Buckinghamshire UK
Muslim men and women, as well as Christians, Jews and Sikhs should be allowed to wear whatever they want. Taking the hijab might incite radicals to hate the West even more for subverting Islamic culture. If women feel comfortable wearing it and want to, then let them wear it. People in the UK should not be attacking anyone else anyway - those who do are as bad as the terrorists.
Andrew, Atlanta, USA
I believe that the veils of the Muslim community should not be banned and they should be allowed to wear them as they have to cover their hair in the religion of Islam. Christians would be angry if they could not celebrate Christmas so imagine how Muslim girls must feel if she is told not to wear her hijab.
Toseef Ahmed, Bradford UK
Dr Badawi's comment is the most intelligent advice to Muslims so far. Even though the Koran talked about the hijab, there is no compulsion to wear it.
Nordin Abdul-Rahman, Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Badawi's advice. I do not wear the hijab myself; the key reason being that there is a subversive discrimination against women who wear the hijab, even in Islamic countries. If you have the choice and the power to not make yourself visible among the crowd, then you should definitely take action.
Maliha Aqeel, Dubai, UAE
Muslims should not be afraid to practice their religion. Encouraging Muslim women to remove their hijabs would be a victory for bigotry and intimidation. Just like the African-Americans of the 1960's civil rights movement, Muslims should be prepared for a long and hard struggle against intolerance.
Mahmoud Khatib, Daytona Beach, Florida, USA
Yes I agree with him completely. The London of today is very different to the London of 5 weeks ago. I want to be able to go out without being scared of being attacked or abused. But if these other women want to wear it, then so be it.
Salwa Ramzi, London
I understand why Dr Badawi has offered the advice he has, but as a British Muslim I feel the decision should rest with each individual. I am proud to be a Muslim and wearing the hijab is part of my daily life and if I feel threatened by wearing it, then Allah will protect me - inshallah. It's not easy being a British Muslim in such times but we must not give in to pressure to give up what is a necessary part of our lives. This is a test for us all and we should believe that the Almighty will protect us.
Mrs Ushma Mahomed, Leicester
In principle, I agree with Dr Badawi, especially when it has been supported by the Holy Koran. Hijab should serve to protect Muslim women. Under the present conditions, and hopefully temporarily, Muslim women should take caution until this wave of hatred has subsided.
Mrs Khan, Toronto, Canada
NO! I totally disagree! Women should be able to wear the hijab wherever and whenever they need. Are we going to ask nuns not to wear a habit? All men and women of conscience should stand for the right for people to have the freedom to display the roots of their faith.
Peter, Columbia, US
The current abuse to Muslim women in the UK is no different to that observed after September 11. Surely stronger Muslims will see this as a test of faith and I am proud that none of the good ones will follow Badawi's ill advice.
Abdul Mohamed, Auckland, New Zealand
What Dr Badawi is advising Muslim women to do is completely wrong. Wearing hijab is something that is obligatory on all Muslim women. If Dr Badawi is so concerned about Muslim women being targeted, maybe he should advise the Muslim women to stay in their homes and keep their hijab and their dignity.
Lauren, Indianapolis, United States
Sikhs have been targeted since 9/11, mistaken for Muslims. But no one in the community will ever suggest against wearing turbans, so memo to Mr Badawi: regardless of difficult circumstances, stick to your faith, because that's when it truly matters.
Raj, Toronto, Canada
I wear hijab and have lived in the US through the events of 9/11 when reactions to Muslims were much more severe than verbal abuse. The hijab is a protection in the sense that people know a woman is religious, hence most respectable people would see this and treat her as such. People treat me somewhat like a nun - a person who has dedicated their life to religion and who should be treated with respect.
I strongly disagree with Dr Badawi's advice to women. A hijab is worn for Allah's pleasure, not just to identify you as a Muslim. A hijab is a part of my faith and essential for a Muslim woman. I would rather live with abuse than give up my hijab.
Halima Dhorat, Brooklyn, NY USA
I am disappointed by these comments. Rather than condemning those who commit these violent crimes and asking the authorities to crack down on such extremism, he is suggesting Muslims should change their way of life.
Mian Faheem Khaliq, Islamabad, Pakistan
Dr Badawi's advice, perhaps well-intentioned is misconceived. He above all should know that strictly speaking women are not supposed to travel alone. His advice should be to travel accompanied, and avoid secluded areas. Removing the hijab is a back door method that Dr Badawi may be trying to integrate. I doubt his advice would be heeded - he does not relate to the types who wear the hijab.
I understand what he is saying but the same was advised by my family immediately after Sept 11. However, my stance was to continue to wear it. Why should I conform my appearance and pride to make the next person comfortable with my choice to be a Muslimah?
Amani, Southern California, US
I disagree with Dr Badawi's advice. We have all been affected by the London bombings, but to change our lives due to them means the terrorists have won. I wear hijab because my God tells me to, and I'm not going to take it off if people are ignorant enough to think all Muslims are terrorists.
Qausia Malik, London
I am a stereotypical white, middle-class Englishman, but I see the advice as common sense. The Koran was built on typically good common sense and in the current climate wearing a hijab may incite racial hatred from ignorant people. Essentially, wear what you intuitively feel may give you the best protection from antisocial people.
Samuel Green, Berkshire
How absurd. You will find nothing but condemnation for this ridiculous statement. Even though religiously motivated hate crimes have increased, it's not widespread. My wife wears the hijab, if we found it that dangerous living in London, we would have moved long before adhering to the ridiculous advice from Mr Badawi.
Islam is a very sensible religion and believes that merciful God would never ask his servants to put themselves in danger to serve him. While hijab is very important to most Muslim women, it isn't necessary for faith or modesty.
M Haydar, New York, USA
I believe Dr Badawi has every right to speak his mind and every Muslim woman has a right to choose whether or not she wishes to wear a hijab. I would not blame anyone for abandoning their cultural norms if it makes them safer, but I think it's a shame when any innocent civilian suffers from fear or violence, be they British citizens riding the subway to work or Muslims suffering a backlash from racists.
Gregg, Ft Worth, USA
Dr Badawi's solution is absurd. The hijab is an integral part of a Muslim woman. Abandoning it just for prevention of attacks would be an act of cowardliness and a step further to slowly eradicating the values of Islam.
Farrukh, Luton, Beds
I absolutely agree with Dr Badawi. Finally, there are Muslim leaders who are talking sense! Hijab is meant to protect Muslim women and to help them be recognised and respected as individuals. If it attracts the wrong kind of attention, it gets the opposite effect of bringing danger instead of safety and so it's best to not wear it.
Dr Badawi's statement is extremely controversial. To pinpoint the hijab as something which is 'optional' for Muslim women to wear in times of hardship is absolute nonsense. The covering for a woman is an obligation, which does not seek to put her in harm's way. Rather, it is a protection for her. Yet ironically, in a free and just society, she is persecuted because she wears one.
Mr Badawi has his own views and I would like Mr Badawi to review his words according to the Koran and the Prophet's sayings before releasing such statements. My wife wouldn't go out without her hijab and would rather go back home.
Gemal, Farnborough, Hampshire
This is a joke, Muslims are meant to be recognisable by their Muslim dress, the religion does not change to suit individuals, individuals change to suit it.
Umm Musa, Lancashire
Dr Badawi has a valid point but I am sure there are many women out there who are strong in their faith and will keep their hijab on.
M H, Bradford
It is very disappointing to hear these remarks from a leading figure who is supposed to be representing the Muslim community. In my opinion a woman is exposing herself to more perverted looks and is respected less if she removes her hijab.
I'm not sure if I agree with the hijab-dispensing advice or not, but things are definitely getting more hostile as the days go by. I wear a headscarf loosely on my head and from curious and hostile looks before the London bombings, I've now been verbally abused, shoved at a checkout line and am experiencing far more active and exhibited aggression.
Quaterlane, Southern California, USA
I do NOT agree with Dr Badawi. I do wear hijab and under no circumstances would think of taking it off. It is my identity as a proud Muslim woman and I would feel unprotected without it. I feel we have worked hard in this country to get the hijab accepted amongst every day life, especially in London.
M Ahmed, London
Dr Badawi's advice is comforting to those who feel the need to have an authoritarian figure advise them on the issue at hand, but wearing the hijab is a personal choice. A woman does not need to gain permission on what she should and should not wear. As a Muslim woman I chose not to wear the hijab simply because I don't want to and do not feel I have to outside of prayers.
Mariama, Houston, TX, USA
As a practicing Muslim I totally agree with Dr Badawi's advice. Such decrees are issued only in extreme circumstances. The fact that such extreme circumstances are there to warrant this measure is a major cause for concern for a 'progressive and enlightened' society such as UK's.
Mohsin Arabi, New Delhi, India
It is with great regret that I must agree with Dr Badawi - it is sadly common sense that if wearing a hijab makes me a target for physical abuse, I must take it off temporarily. I am usually the first to advocate the right of the individual, but I speak as a wife and mother of small children: Islam gives me the right to protect myself from danger. It would be extremely foolish of me to risk my life in this climate of growing racial tension.
Dr Badawi's comments are highly irresponsible and pander to the wishes of those who perpetrate hate crimes and hold bigoted views about the hijab. Advising Muslim women to stop practising a key aspect of their faith because of fear of attack from hate-criminals is similar to advising commuters to stop using the London Underground because of threat from terrorists.
Shabel F, Birmingham
I very much agree with Dr Badawi. The wearing of the hijab makes people around you nervous and suspicious of who is behind the dress. Muslim women do not have to wear revealing dresses or mini skirts if this is against their faith. However, in an open society under attack from terrorists, the face and head must be identifiable.
Jennings Rukani, Manchester
I'm a Muslim citizen, who has been raised in this British society. Even though I am proud to be a British citizen, I am more proud of the fact that I am a Muslim. And I am appalled with Dr Badawi's advice of removing head scarves. Removing my head scarf - this in my opinion would mean that I am compromising my religion, and that is something that I would never do, even if I did get attacked (god forbid) then that would strengthen my belief, not weaken it.
Naseem Nawaz, UK
I agree with what Dr Badawi has said as I believe the hijab holds Muslims back from integrating with modern British society. It makes us become separated and stand out like a 'sore thumb' from those around us, making Muslims an easy target for racial aggravation. For orthodox (not extremist) Muslims it can be said that a woman simply taking of her hijab does not mean she is abandoning her religion
Farhana Nazir, Birmingham, UK
I am not only British but also English, Muslim and wear the hijab. I have no intention whatsoever of abandoning something which is essential to my faith. My hijab represents my submission to Allah and does not represent extremism or support to any kind of terrorism. It is a basic requirement for women following Islam and I do not intend to submit to any kind of bullying by removing it in public. I am speechless by Dr Badawi's remarks and suggest he thinks carefully before making such comments.
Elaine Nawaz, Reading, UK
It is good advice in terms of personal safety. However, I am saddened that anyone has to change how they live to avoid potential hate crimes. It must be somewhat uncomfortable for a women who is used to wearing a hijab to have to go out without it.
James Cross, Wellington NZ, but a Brit
After the September 11th attacks some moderate Muslim scholars in America suggested that Muslim women stop wearing hijab or to cover their hair in ways that would not identify them as Muslim. I completely agree with this way of thinking; Islamic shariah was established to honour and protect life not to endanger it. Dr. Badawi is a brilliant man and we need more moderate, open minded leaders in the Muslim world.
Amina, San Francisco, CA
Why should Muslims have to hide their identity? Surely this would be exactly what the perpetrators of hate would want?
Lucy, Manchester UK
As a Muslim woman doctor who wears the hijab, I take this to be a huge violation on our freedom. Contrary to many stereotypes, many Muslim women choose to wear the hijab (they are not forced to wear it by men folk as is commonly believed). I personally found it to be a liberating step which allowed others to appreciate me for who I was and not just a sex object. I am sure that many non-Muslim women would feel very offended if told not to dress in a certain way to avoid unwanted sexual attention. It is a matter of freedom. Similarly, many Muslim women feel offended at being asked to change the way they have chosen to dress because society refuses to change itself and accept them the way they are.
Aisha, London, UK
I wear the hijab, and I will not take it off. what happened to my freedom of religion?
A M, London
The Koran doesn't even state that a woman has to wear the hijab anyway. The hijab is a strict Arab interpretation of dressing 'modestly.' The statement by Badawi is no big deal really. I'm sure Muslim women will decide for themselves or simply not go out alone in certain parts of the country. Personally I think the hijab is too strict an interpretation and prevents integration into society although if a woman chooses to wear one of her own conviction, then it is an individual decision. Badawi has no real authority anyway.
I totally disagree with Dr Badawi's advice. We as Muslims should never abandon our fardh(obligation)of wearing the hijab even if it means being subjected to abuse and physical assault. We should always display our Muslim identity.
I'm a Muslim woman who wears the hijab and I can say that nothing can deter me from wearing the hijab. The hijab is much more than a piece of cloth, it is my identity! I personally believe that the majority of people in England have no problems with Muslim women covering their heads, the small minority that do have a problem aren't going to affect me. We Brits are not going to be defeated any terrorists and criminals who are making life miserable for us all.
Miss Hussain, Leeds
I feel Dr Badawi's approach is totally unacceptable and inconsiderate of the female Muslim population who observe hijab. I am male but have many family members (including my mother) who feel this is simply not acceptable under Islamic laws. The whole purpose of the hijab is protect a women's modesty: taking it off would be going in the opposite direction to what Islam expects of you. Peace and Greetings.
No, I don't agree with his advice... tomorrow he will say I kindly request the good Muslim women to wear skirts and jeans and tee shirts.