Saturday, December 29, 2018

World Hijab Day????

For those of you who didn't know (as I didn't until a few days ago), February 1 is "World Hijab Day".

This is the latest PR innovation by activist Muslims to advance the cause of political Islam. I had previously seen this while teaching at UC Irvine. Every year, the Muslim Student Union would hold their annual "Islam Awareness" week of events to put out a positive spin on Islam for the benefit of the rest of the student body. One of the features was "Wear a Hijab Day", when non-Muslim coeds were encouraged to walk around with a head scarf and experience what it was really like to be a Muslim woman in America with all the Islamophobes insulting you and throwing rotten fruit at you (which doesn't actually happen). In January 2013, CAIR's San Francisco director, Zahra Billoo, came to speak at UCI as part of this propaganda effort. I actually got her to admit that under sharia law, there actually is the death penalty for adulterers. She hastened to add, however, that it also applies to men (even though-my words- it is hardly applied evenly across both genders).

What is important here is not whether Muslim women in America have the right to wear a headscarf. They do. My own personal opinion is that while many Muslim women consider it a requirement for their religion, many others wear it because they are pressured to do so by their family or peers. Some, in my opinion, wear the hijab to make a statement. My perception is that Muslim women in America, especially on college campuses are increasingly wearing the hijab.

What is important for people to consider if they choose to take note of this day is whether Muslim women have the right not to wear the hijab. In certain Muslim countries, most notably Saudi Arabia and Iran, a Muslim woman who appears in public without it-or a full face covering-is subject to arrest. In other places, even in the West, women have been subjected to violence-up to murder- from male members of their families for failing to adhere to Islamic norms of female modesty in their dress.

This is the freedom that I am concerned about. Muslim women in America should have the right to decide for themselves if they want to wear a hijab, nikab, burka, mini-skirt, or whatever. They are entitled  to the same rights as all other women in America.

Muslim activist women will insist that they choose to wear the hijab as a form of empowerment and that it is their own choice. To that, I would ask, "empowerment or a statement of separateness"? At any rate, it is truly freedom of choice that matters here. It would be very hard to get an accurate survey of how many Muslim women wear a hijab out of choice or compulsion, but what is crucial is that they truly have the freedom to wear a hijab or not. To be honest, I am not comfortable with countries like France trying to enforce a ban on hijabs. That would never pass muster under American laws. But true equality (and true assimilation) means that Muslim women really have the choice. There is no question that in America they have the right to wear it. They must also truly have the freedom and the right not to wear it.

I would encourage non-Muslim women to think twice before they accept any invitations to don a hijab "in solidarity" on February 1. Solidarity with what? Think about what might happen to so many Muslim women around the world if they chose to remove their hijabs.

1 comment:

listen said...

As a non-Muslim, I wonder what the reaction would be if I donned a hijab per their invite, but added a dog collar with chain around my neck?