Categories: AnalysisCultureOpinionPolitics

The Fight against the Hijab: the right fight for the wrong reasons

A fitting metaphor for the blackout of women that is Islamic dress has been the media blackout of the mass casting off of such dress in Iran. Till recently, the jilbab, hijab, niqab, burka, chador, abaya, etc., have been cast in the West as matters of women’s choice, as if ‘choice’ is a concept in Islam.

What started out as an error has since sunken to the ignominy of non-Muslim Western women adopting the hijab (that’s the fashionable, Nike-promoted headscarf, not the face-obliterating mask, the shape-killing abaya or the blue plasticine burqa) “to help Muslim women feel at home”.

There seems no end to the absurd agenda-setting entitlements of Western feminists. Let us deal with this last absurdity first. Anti-Trump tantrums demand that everything that Donald Trump is against must be supported, which, merged with identity politics, gives rise to the “We are all Muslim now” corruption of the May ’68 slogan “Nous sommes tous des Juifs allemands,” and German-held US PoW Roddie Edmonds’ defiant “We are all Jews here,” a cheapening that might well have begun with Barack Obama and in terms of which Edmonds would be reduced to an “ally” of the Jews, rather than a fellow human being.

So now an Islamised US flag fashionably drapes the crown of a classically-proportioned American woman, and the iconic Nike tick adds both speed and approval to a Muslim female swimmer about to dive into the modern world. Marvellous.

Wearing the hijab to help Muslim women “feel at home” is misplaced, to put it mildly, It is precisely at home where they do not have to where it. But it is especially galling since Muslim mores dictate that a woman shall not leave the home without her husband’s permission and then never unchaperoned, and in some places, never without a male “guardian” and, in any case, never without a jilbab, hijab, niqab, burka, chador, abaya, or some such, obliterating her. Thank you, sisters.

Worse is the “women’s choice” idea. This holds that women are free to choose what to wear or not to wear and should not be forced wear or not wear any particular garments.

That is fine where Islam is a matter of free choice (a freedom that flows from the Enlightenment, but that Western Muslims like to ascribe to Islam), where women are free, are persons in their own right, and enjoy the protections of the law against assault and violation of the person, in short, where women enjoy human rights.

Where Shari’a obtains or encroaches, or where Islam/the Qur’an underpins social conduct, a woman is not even a person in her own right. She has no personhood, let alone one with human rights. From birth till death she is the charge of a male, who is a person in his own right, albeit still without human rights (he submits).

Here the jilbab, hijab, niqab, burka, chador, abaya, etc., mean something entirely different.

Western apologetics for such dress is farcical. Sometimes such farce conceals a sinister manipulation. In order to convince her gullible TEDx audience that that nice chap Muhammad was merely fulfilling his mayoral brief of “finding a solution to women in the city being attacked and molested” when they went to the Ladies’ at night, modern Muslim speaker Samina Ali tells them that the Prophet “turned the matter over to God,” who was apparently unaware of this problem until then. The ever-obliging God, according, revealed the following verse of the Qur’an:

“O Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters, and the women of the believers to draw upon themselves their garments. This is better, so that they not be known and molested,” [emph. AP]

There is a string of absurdities in Ali’s silly account, including that women going for a wee at night walked out “past the outskirts of the city” (presumably the gates were opened for them especially), and only at that point did “a group of men actually [begin] to see an opportunity in women’s nightly tracks,” (it never crossed their minds in all the centuries that they’ve seen women wandering into the dark alone at night). But this silliness conceals a sinister manipulation. The quoted verse, Qur’an 33:59, differs from that which Ali offers her TEDx audience in one small, but highly significant respect: the position of the word ‘not’.

Whereas Ali quotes the verse as saying, “so that they not be known and molested,” the verse says, “so that they be known and not molested.” So they may be known as what?

Ali says so the may not be known as slaves, since free women, jilbab-wearers, were recognisable as such and not molested. This is nonsense. The verse clearly refers to “women of the believers” (sometimes translated as “believing women”), i.e., Muslim women or women-owned by Muslims. In other words, the Qur’an is saying, get your women to identify themselves clearly as woman of Muslims and you will not be molested. Molested by whom? Ali tells her lovely TEDx audience the molesters are those dim blokes who loiter on the outskirts of cities at night. Except the Qur’an was not revealed and the Prophet did not proselytise to dim blokes who loiter on the outskirts of cities at night.

The Qur’an and Muhammad address Muslims and Muslims alone. Women of the believers are not told to identify themselves as “women of the believers” to non-believing molesters; they are told to identify themselves as such to believing molesters, i.e., Muslim molesters. A woman not identifiable as a “woman of the believers” is fair game to any Muslim inclined to molest.

Ali says one thing that is most certainly true: “Muslims like to take historical rulings and apply them to the modern era.” Far more significant than choice of clothing are the global and universal implications of 33:59 today, since the real reason for these garments have to do not with Muslim women, but with non-Muslim women.

The Qur’an instructs Muslim men to make their women wear Muslim dress so they may not be mistaken for those women that Muslim men are allowed to rape (by this point we can dispense with the euphemisms). And while such rape of non-Muslim women by Muslim men have been going on in Muslim lands for as long as there’ve been non-Muslim women in Muslim lands, the West woke up to such practices only when ISIS demonstrated how to do it right, and when large groups of Muslim male immigrants to the West became bold enough to behave as Muslim males are entitled to behave: rape non-Muslim women.

When a Muslim woman in the West wears a hijab, she might well, in all innocence, be “asserting her identity as a Muslim woman” and it might mean exactly that to her male free-choice fellow Muslims, but that is not what it means to packs of Muslim men from Muslim lands.

To them, she signals: don’t rape me, rape them — a virtue signal if ever there was one. Our feminist sisters might want to think about that before they next “celebrate the hijab” or wear it to make Muslim women feel at home. While they’re thinking, they might also consider where Henda Ayari heard the words, “either you wear a veil or you get raped.”

Certainly, a great deal of oppression attends to enforcing the wearing of such items, from petite officials, many female, publicly berating grown women for a single offending strand of hair, on the one hand, to the brutal public flogging of women by any male, on the other. The casting off of these symbols of female non-existence is long overdue, but it is also a casting off an entire social order, value system and way of being.

The women in Iran casting off their oppressive clothing are doing so for themselves, of course, but they are also doing it so Western women can continue to freely walk their streets and feel the wind in their hair without risk of getting jumped on. Yet even now, the role of the hijab in the mass-rapes in Europe is not touched on, let alone made explicit. Of course not: Muslims are an oppressed group and, in any case, “we are all Muslims now.”

Anjuli Pandavar

Anjuli Pandavar is a British European writer who grew up in a Muslim working class family in South Africa. She is currently writing her first novel and will soon complete an MFA in creative writing. Anjuli is a lecturer at New York University in Shanghai, where she lives with her Australian wife, Belinda Allan.

Comments

  • Excellent and heart-felt post, as usual, and which roundly and quite justifiably condemns “the absurd agenda-setting entitlements of Western feminists”. Who should have their noses rubbed in the barbarisms that is Islam. Never ceases to be a wonder and puzzle to me, and to many others including Denis MacEoin at The Gatestone Institute:

    … why so many people, often decent people, are drawn to defend Islam, Islamic patriarchy, Islamic discrimination against women, violence and more, even when such defence is obviously anti-liberal in the extreme.

    Reminds me too of an old post of yours in which you argued “The fevered attempts to exonerate Islam from any role in the Orlando massacre have reached new levels of absurdity.” One seriously wonders when, or if, the body politic will finally have a surfeit of that; can’t be too soon.

    No doubt there are philosophically and morally tenable aspects to the “religion” – even if it’s less that than a totalitarian political ideology – but those have to be scarcer than hen’s teeth in comparison to the barbarisms and savagery and ignorance that seems to comprise the bulk of it. Reminds me of a passage by the Syrian-American psychiatrist, Wafa Sultan:

    When I examined the Koran, the hadith, and the Islamic books under a microscope, I came to the absolute conviction that it is impossible – impossible! – for any human being to read the biography of Muhammad and believe in it, and yet emerge a psychologically and mentally healthy person.

    Amen to that. As you know from an earlier review of yours of Sultan’s A God Who Hates, Allah’s tendency to that seems multiplied in spades in his many benighted followers. Although the old Testament Jehovah wasn’t exactly a pleasant fellow either, but one might argue one of his more credible claims to fame if not redemption, so to speak, was his role as “lawgiver and judge” – arguably the basis and foundation for much if not all of science. Rather notably in contradistinction to Allah who seems more into an arbitrary and capricious vindictiveness that is little short of astounding – to say the least. But a curious and possibly relevant dichotomy – “as the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined”.

    In any case, also kind of like this observation of yours too:

    The casting off of these symbols of female non-existence is long overdue, but it is also a casting off an entire social order, value system and way of being.

    Amen to that likewise.

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