@GenderlogIndia is a Twitter handle that talks about feminist issues. The handle is based on the curator model where the handle is passed on to different people to share their views. Recently the handle was passed on to a “Pakistani” Canadian sex blogger who identifies herself by the pseudonym Eiynah. By her own admission she “is not much immersed” in Pakistani culture. So here we have a westerner with little understanding of the sub-continental culture running GenderLog–INDIA.
People immediately noticed that the tweets were different than usual. Some people found it annoying, some people found it amusing (including me) and some people thought it was different so it should be welcome.
Eiynah expressed the view popular with some western feminists that the niqab donned by some Muslim women is a tool of oppression. This is not an unreasonable view. In the past I have tweeted against the face covering niqab.
Everything was fine until Eiynah was confronted with the fact that some Muslim women actually wear the niqab as a matter of choice. This view was expressed by another female. This was just too much to handle. Suddenly the niqab clad women who were oppressed magically transformed into evil witches who can be casually equated with the violent racist Ku Klux Klan. It doesn’t end there. They also needed to be banished from public space.
Do you see the problem? These women who are supposed to be oppressed should be oppressed further by taking away their right to be in public space. I hope it makes sense to you. I concede I am not smart enough to make any sense of this. Either they can be poor oppressed souls or evil conniving evil people like the KKK. They can’t be both.
At this point I got a hint of Islamophobia and bigotry. Equating the women who choose to wear the niqab with Ku Klux Klan? Really? Anyway let us go a bit further because it gets a whole lot interesting.
Nowadays due to the civil war in Iraq and Syria and its extensive coverage in the media, Muslims face bigoted taunts where bigots use the name of despicable terrorist organization like ISIS to vilify normal Muslims. Recently on a train in Sydney such a attack on a hijab clad woman was recorded by a good Samaritan who confronted the bigot. The media hailed the good Samaritan and condemned the bigot for taunting the hijabi lady using the name of ISIS.
Eiynah used the same modus operandi. Now the choice to wear the Hijab was akin to the choice of joining ISIS. Yes you read it right. The choice to wear a piece of cloth to cover your head is similar to the choice of joining a despicable violent terrorist organization that kills thousands of innocents. KKK to ISIS? Well that escalated quickly.
At this point I had no doubt in my mind Eiynah is a Islamophobic bigot who is misusing the platform provided by GenderLogIndia to vilify Muslim women who choose to wear clothes that conform to their individual religious values.
Now I was told by well meaning people that I misunderstood her tweet. She was merely saying that just because it is a personal choice does not mean it is beyond condemnation. After all if we can condemn the personal choice of some idiot joining ISIS why can we condemn the personal choice of someone wearing a Hijab? There are two problems with this explanation.
This analogy could have been made with almost any ‘choice’ in the world. For e.g. she could have said that we can criticize the choice of people smoking, or people eating unhealthy fast food or any of the million such examples. But no. The reference to a despicable terrorist organization had to be made. Why? Well I will let you decide why.
The second problem with criticizing “the choice” in this context defeats the feminist cause. It has taken years for feminists to stop people from criticizing their right to choose. For e.g. if there is a Muslim cleric who issues a fatwa that criticizes “the personal choice” of Muslim women to wear shorts what will be the reaction of the feminists? They will be up in arms against the cleric and rightly so. Who gave the cleric the right to criticize the personal choice made by a Muslim woman? Similarly no one gave the right to Eiynah to criticize the personal choice made by Muslim women. It just goes against everything that feminists have fought for ages.
Lastly I want to ask the creators of the GenderLog India handle. Do they have any sympathy for the hijab clad women who are increasingly becoming the victims of hate crime? Do they understand that in spite of all the pressures many women choose to wear the headgear because they believe it is a part of their cultural identity? Instead of increasing the understanding around the issue would it be the right to promote fear and paranoia around this? I will let GenderLog ponder over this and I believe they will do the right thing by women.