Current Issues: A woman's right to wear Hijab

Add your Comment >


A woman's right to wear Hijab

In Denmark the debate about the Muslim hijab has reached a new high.

Especially due to a very brave politician by the name of Asmaa Abdol-Hamid, the discussion of hijabs in public office and in court houses is raging.

It seems to me that women in feminist circles are much divided on this issue, and so am I. On one hand I completely follow the argument that a woman's right to wear a head-scarf for religious reasons is untouchable. On the other hand, many a feminist would call the hijab a very powerful symbol of the suppression of women.

Since we cannot know for sure which women put on the hijab for what reasons, what solutions could there be to a conflict of this kind?

Asmaa Abdol-Hamid (Scanpix for Kristeligt Dagblad)

Hijab

I was raised in a very secular non-religious household by a mother who called herself a Christian but whom I never once saw enter a church.
At the age of twenty, I became muslim, by choice. I immediately began to wear the hijab, also by choice. No one has ever forced me to wear the hijab and I do not have to force my daughters to wear it either.

Ever ask a Muslimah why she wears the hijab? Ever ask a Muslimah if she wears it by force or by choice? and why not ask her, afterall she is the one who wears it, eh?

For me the hijab is a form of liberation, as it removes my sexuality from the equation. I am judged based on my talents, my intentions, my actions, and my words, as opposed to the size and shape of my busom and backside. This piece of fabric frees me from being subjected to the over-sexed attitudes of this very decadent and sexually oriented society. It makes me a human being as opposed to an object of sexual interest, which is how only my husband should regard me.

It is easy for non-Muslims to pontificate about why they would not or could not wear the hijab, and they are well within their rights to hold these opinions. taht said I believe it to be presumptous and arrogant for a non-Muslim to assume to know or understand what this piece of fabric represents to woman who choose to wear it.

For those people who are taken aback, who are offended and confused about what this hijab means, about its symbolism, I say the issue is with them, and not with the Muslimah who wears it. Just as one must do a bit of study to undestand mathematics, or history, or biology, I would encourage the same bit of study before coming to misguided, and miseducated conclusions about the hijab.

I am a Muslim. I am free. I am a hijabi. And I am proud to wear this symbol of my faith, obediance to Allah, and inner purity.

Why do we all agree that it is WOMEN who have to behace themselves???

I have heard many a Muslimah say that her hijab is, for her, a symbol of liberation because it removes the focus from her sexual attributes to her actual personality and character.

However, I keep asking myself whether women should have to hide their sexuality in order not to become the object of perverted male fantasies? May I remind all of you that it was not a clever woman's idea to tell all Muslim women to wear hijabs. It was whoever wrote the Koran, and whether one is a believer or not; in any case that 'holy' book was most certainly not written by a woman. To place the hijab on a woman's head was a man's idea. He did so because he was afraid that he might otherwise be tempted by the womean - and maybe rape her. Today, it seems not to be uncommon that men in Islamic countries can get away with rape on the account that a woman did not wear a hijab (or was wearing it in the wrong way).

I have heard many a Muslimah say that her hijab is, for her, a symbol of liberation because it removes the focus from her sexual attributes to her actual personality and character.

However, I keep asking myself whether women should have to hide their sexuality in order not to become the object of perverted male fantasies? May I remind all of you that it was not a clever woman's idea to tell all Muslim women to wear hijabs. It was whoever wrote the Koran, and whether one is a believer or not; in any case that 'holy' book was most certainly not written by a woman. To place the hijab on a woman's head was a man's idea. He did so because he was afraid that he might otherwise be tempted by the women - and maybe rape her. Today, it seems not to be uncommon that men in Islamic countries can get away with rape on the account that a woman did not wear a hijab (or was wearing it in the wrong way).

What I am trying to say here is that if men objectify women and women's sexuality, then it is the men who are in need of repair, not the women who have to cover up!!!

*behave

sorry about the spelling

Layali Eshqaidef
United States

Reply to "Freedom? Of course. Respect? Not necessarily"

Thanks for clarifying your points. However, I don't agree with your dichotomy of religion vs. reason. There can be religion and reason hand in hand, side by side, and stemming out of each other and there has been.

I also don't agree with how you pose feminism opposite to belief. There are many many Muslim feminists (and feminists of all faiths) who are believers and strong activists against gender inequality in all walks of life.

The very thought that hijab symbolizes women's oppression to you and others is problematic because it is based on the assumption of superiority of the Western, neoliberal imperialist model which normalizes the modern white man and others everyone else.

Regarding the title of your post, what's the point of freedom if you cannot have respect for those who take advantage of this freedom? Freedom is essentially based on mutual respect.

I don't see the point in trying to educate people about the meaning of the hijab because what it means to you is not universal and is not an abstract truth, but rather a construction. I suggest readings by Edward Said, Leila Ahmad, and Saba Mahmood.

AlinaY
AlinaY
United States

Religious/Non-religious

Headcoverings for women is something common in many cultures and all across the world, in different forms and shapes and colors (see also countrysides in Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics, India and SE Asia or Latin America). I do not believe it is something religious as much as it is social, or it is something else embedded in our religious education: I have entered churches of many many denominations, mosques, temples and synagogues - women cover their heads, men uncover them. Respect for/obedience to God? Maybe. The thing is that some cultures took it to the extreme and imposed headcoverings so well, for sooo many reasons, over centuries, that now women feel that it is "their choice" to wear hijab, burka etc. I have to say, some hijabs are so beautifully designed, I would wear them as scarves, or on my head on a windy day. No offence.

Reply to Layali Eshqaidef

Hi

Just wanted to say that I am at present really considering what you wrote to me. I'll get back to you when I finished processing it. This is such a difficult issue to make up one´s mind about...

Thomas

Arwa Alhoribi
Arwa Alhoribi
United Arab Emirates

Oppressed?

What an interesting and thought-provoking discussion!

Thomas, if you know of Muslim women who wear it out of their own independent choice, then your argument that it is a sign of "oppression" doesn't hold up anymore. "Oppression" implies that someone was coerced or forced into something by a superior. Now are there Muslim women who ARE forced into it? Of course-and this is largely the reason it is seen as a sign of oppression in the "west". I can understand why you might be "bothered" by it-especially from a feminist's point of view-but...you have to understand that from a Muslim women's perspective-from an emic perspective-it's not seen as a means of oppression...and that's really all that matters, isn't it?

Listen, I grew up in a Muslim society, and when I visit the U.S. certain things I see there "bother" me-overtly enthusiastic PDAs for example, or scantily dressed women. I too get uncomfortable and feel that these women are subjecting themselves to unnecessary and unwanted (and possibly harmful) attention. I see it as an obstruction of their liberty. "Liberty"-like democracy-means different things to different people. I can't go around imposing my beliefs on others; because to some women, the ability to dress and act that way IS liberty. And I understand that.

(By the way, I'm not saying women in America dress or act that way, I'm just talking about the few that I see that do)

Also, you said, "if men objectify women and women's sexuality, then it is the men who are in need of repair, not the women who have to cover up!!!", and in a sense I agree with you. But-and this is what's crucial-if a women WANTS to cover up; if she feels freer "hiding" her sexuality, then the only way for her to be truly free is do as she pleases. And no, these women aren't brainwashed. You are not Muslim, nor were you raised in a Muslim environment, nor are you a woman, so you don't really have the right to say that the hijab "most certainly does not represent their liberation".

What else can I say? I hope you'll try to understand that if a Muslimah SAYS that her hijab is a "a symbol of liberation"-take her word for it. It’s her body and her independent mind and her PERSPECTIVE…how can that not be liberty?

(Oh yeah, if you have time you should definitely try reading Edward Said as the other woman suggested. Try "Covering Islam".)



Does it matter?

This is one of the most interesting threads of discussion I’ve come across here. Sad I don’t visit these pages often. At the outset, let me say that I think the hijab has transformed itself into a superb fashion statement. I’m amazed at the many ways that women in parts of Southeast Asia wear it to match their attire. Let me also say that I respect every woman’s choice to wear it or not wear it, for reasons that they believe are legitimate. It’s very personal really.

But the question arises only because most of us live in a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-ethnic society, and we have a natural tendency to wonder why women wear hijab.

Kudos to Thomas for raising this question - it takes a lot of courage to say, it bothers you and express all that you have said here. Whether I agree with everything you say is besides the point. I’m also fascinated by some of the reactions.

For Layali Eshqaidef, ‘This piece of fabric frees me from being subjected to the over-sexed attitudes of this very decadent and sexually oriented society.’ Renee wonders whether the catcalls would stop if she wore a hijab. If we believe that our societies suffer from repressed sexuality issues, then I don’t think women covering up or not, or women choosing a certain kind of attire over another, is going to solve the problem. If that were true, rapes and crimes against women in India would be a lot less – women in India are mostly dressed traditionally, in six-yard sarees or salwar kurta that pretty much cover their whole bodies. A popular adage amongst some of us Indian women is, drape a stick with a saree and a guy would still hit on it. So let’s not deceive ourselves by thinking that a mere costume change could cure a society. How we look at a woman, or man for that matter, is a result of years of social conditioning. Even some of the most progressive amongst us could be victims of traditional thought patterns because these still lurk in our subliminal minds.

As for the ‘choice’ question, I wonder if years of oppression make us accept a fact that we know we cannot change, or think we cannot fight to change anymore. We try to circumvent a negative aspect through positive affirmation. The hijab therefore becomes a symbol, period. Nothing religious, or social. A sort of a giving back to the society of men who invented it. Sometimes, you think there are bigger issues to fight for. And you choose your battles. This applies to those women who have the power to make that choice.

What about those for whom there is no choice but what is handed to them? So I think and hope that Thomas is referring to those women who want to break free but cannot because of fear of how their own society may treat them. What about them? How do we hear their voices?

Lastly, faith and religion, in my opinion, need not be used synonymously as Thomas has chosen to use. Faith is what you feel, what you experience, and does not have to originate from established religion. I believe that even if our experiences point to the depth of differences between us, we should be able to include truths that we may not believe in. Inclusion is the key, not ‘tolerance,’ as you mention.


Farah A
United Arab Emirates

not suppressing but liberating.

First off, thanks Thomas for bringing up this issue! it's a really old topic, yet always the centre of attention.

This response is particularly for Michaele. I don't understand why a public figure choosing to wear the hijab would be any different from any other person who chose to wear it. One wears the hijab not for show, or to make a statement, it is not a symbol of anything either. It is merely a personal preference one makes to fulfill his/her obligations to his/her religion. I am sure that Asmaa didn't don the hijab to cause any controversy or to prove anything, she just wants to fulfill what she believes is required of her by her faith and religion.

Besides, a public figure representing a society does not do so by physical appearance, a figure does so by conveying thoughts and opinions... they do so by being *heard*...not by being *seen*. And if the public sphere you speak of is in fact a "free" one, then the hijab should be of no issue. Just like if the public figure in question chose to marry her girlfriend or worship a cow..they are all personal aspects, that of which belongto the private sphere - not to be mixed with the public one.

I am sad to know that most people regard the hijab as a symbol of repression , when in fact it is one of the most liberating gestures one can make in my opinion.

MikeHardly
United States

Many women beat a path to my door , i dont look at them and determine, or evaluate them cause what they wear, or how they look , what they wear is their individual choice, for whatever reason.

[url=http://www.legalx.net] attorney directory[/url]

jules
jules
Australia

to see and to be seen

to decide if we are subject or object. We define ourselves where and when we wish and we flow through our choices.This is our right as human.

All have the right to define themselves as they choose and to redefine.
I am not hidden but I could choose to be.
Is it possible that many western women choose to hide themselves behind a mask made from their own faces?
I want all humans to be free to choose and to change; to delight in their relations between change and stillness.

My personal conclusion

When I first started this thread I did so out of curiosity and because I was in doubt about where I stood on the issue. I am deeply grateful that so many people from all walks of life have participated in the discussion.

Personally I have, after a long time of consideration, come to my own conclusion. It is just as oppressive to make someone take off the Hijab as it is to make someone wear it.

jules
jules
Australia

agreed

there is the western notion that everything about a female must be instantly available and visible. We have no place to not be seen. It is the same with knowledge - we believe we are entitled to know everything - that there is nothing that might be private or sacred.

Its a fine distinction because much that is bad for the human spirit is learned and transmitted; from individual to individual, from mother to daughter, from father to son, from elder to community.

I think rather than forbid we sought illuminated the joy of our own experiences and our own knowledges - the pain and the joy and the wonder of everything we are learning as human. And we should listen to the voices in our world and allow all the dignity of their own choices.

We cannot remove the injustices heaped on others but we can listen to them as they struggle to free themselves, we can support their efforts and thoughts and we can explain simply and clearly the whys of what we don't believe or agree with accepting that not everyone will agree with what we say.

I choose not the be veiled and will help others who wish not to be veiled but at the same time I will enjoy the visible solitude of a woman who chooses to be veiled.

thank you for this thread sir, I have enjoyed reading it very much

Banning vs. Enlightening

I could not have formulated it better myself. If we ban something we are doing to things. 1) We are only tempoarily putting away the 'problem', and 2) Asserting that we know that what we ban is a problem. This is not the way to go!

Sonia
Sonia
Canada

How do you make them behave??

And this will use an example from a completely different world. Being a young doctor, wearing the famous lab coat would do the same: hide most of what makes men misbehave. And so, that is the only way of having a reasonable practice without flirty patients or colleagues.

Men "are in need of repair" socially speaking but their biology won't allow it and our society has overlooked their naughtiness for too long.

Tags: The woman should be able to wear what she wants...


Log In