The Hijabs are Coming

hijab-2

If aliens ever come to planet earth will we try to understand their culture or start calling them names for the way they appear?

In this blog I discuss the arguments around the Muslim head gear and the social issues surrounding it.

How can a modern enlightened state to allow its people to follow their evil cultural practices?

Had we not forcefully stopped the Hindu religious practice of Sati women would still be killing themselves after the death of their husband. Why should Muslims have any objection if the state forcefully stops women from donning the hijab/niqab/burqa. The argument that women voluntarily wear some form of the Islamic headgear is not enough to make it legitimate. After all some Hindu women voluntarily killed themselves in the name of Sati.

If the above passage made sense to you then let me explain why it should not.

  • Two cultural practices cannot be equal just because they are cultural practices. It would be same as saying a Burqa is same as the bikini because both are pieces of clothing.
  • While a modern state cannot allow every cultural practice a modern state cannot prohibit a legitimate cultural practice just because it is a cultural practice. Every cultural practice needs to be evaluated independently.
  • The cultural practice of donning a headgear is in no way comparable to the cultural practice of a woman being killed or choosing to die after the death of her husband.

Let us now test the argument that that Sati and Burqa are both oppressive and hence they can be equated. Sati did not stop because there were laws against it. There is absolutely nothing that a state can do if the woman decides to commit suicide after the death of her husband. The Hindu woman has decided that she will no longer follow this barbaric practice and hence the end of Sati.

On the contrary there is empirical evidence that most Muslim women wear the headgear voluntarily as a part of their cultural identify and do not see it as either barbaric or oppressive. Had this been the case there would be no Muslim women in the western world wearing the hijab. Turkey aggressively tried to enforce a secularist culture. Hijab clad women were banned from universities and after several decades of secularism most Turkish women still prefer some form of Islamic head covering.

Well how can you say that they voluntarily choose to wear the headgear when they are conditioned to wear the headgear since they are children?

Good question. There is no society in the world in which parents do not influence their children. You are most likely to identify yourself as a Hindu if you grow up in a Hindu family in India. You are most likely to identify yourself as an atheist if you grow up in an atheist family. You are most likely to identify yourself as Muslim if you grow up in a Muslim family. And when you identify yourself as a Muslim the Hijab may come as part of that cultural identity.

Thousands of women convert to Islam every year around the world and they are more likely to wear the Islamic headgear as compared to someone who was born in a Muslim family. This is a clear indicator that is not always about cultural conditioning but about a legitimate cultural choice.

The Islamic headgear is as cultural as it is Islamic. You will hardly find anyone wearing a burqa in Turkey. Unlike the subcontinent burqa was never a part of the Turkish Islamo-cultural identity. People often become more protective about their cultural identity when they see that it is under threat. A Hindu is more likely to search for his cultural roots after migrating to the west. The idea is to preserve and protect the culture in face of the pressures to conform to the dominant culture that surrounds you.

Why the fear of Hijab?

Once can understand people’s discomfort with the face covering niqab because face is an important of identity and it can be quite confronting to talk to someone “face to face” when there is only one face available in the conversation. Then there are security concerns. A person wearing a balaclava or a helmet cannot be allowed into bank so why a niqab clad woman should be allowed inside a bank in the name of culture? These are legitimate concerns and should not be seen as an attack on culture.

The attack on the Hijab is however a completely different matter. The idea is the force the woman to conform to the ideals of the dominant culture. For e.g. you will rarely see Oprah Winfrey in her naturOprah-Winfreyal Afro hair. She has to look whiter than white. How many white women that you see around you choose the afro hairstyle? Hardly any. How many African American women do you see with blonde wigs and straitened hair? Many. The minority should conform to the dominant culture of the majority or else get ready to be ridiculed, mocked and shunned from the civil society.

In the western societies the debate about the Islamic headgear is as much about the Western Identity as it is about the Islamic identity. There is no reason for these two identities to clash. There are hundreds of examples where hijab clad women have made it big in their professional careers. Muslims must also do their bit by discouraging the practice of niqab. Feminist extremism challenging the cultural identity of Muslim women is having exactly the opposite of the desired effect.

Islam is not going away, Muslims are not going away. There will more and more Hijabs around us in the future. The choice is ours. Either we can remain in a perpetual state of confrontation or we can just accept it as a part of multicultural society and move on. The Hijabs are coming.

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10 comments

  1. Missed the core point, what does covering your face in public represent in Islamic culture? A person born in a lower caste can believe than he is worth less than one of higher caste and can fight for his right to carry human feces since its culturally followed, no one can question his right to believe and practice it, same with covering face and hiding the identity of women in Islam, she has the right to believe she is worth less than a man and her value and modesty depends totally on her submissive nature to men, covering body and identity, which may be informed or indoctrinated.

    West which celebrates freedom and equality (not saying it’s 100% there) get more frustrated with the patriarchal nature of Islam and the status of women in it more than Indians since we are a patriarchal society which is more or less accustomed to treating women as something less than men.

    Afro hair is a not a informed or indoctrinated “choice”. Analogy doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Its a regressive idea which will be continued to be questioned, debated and educated.

    1. A) An overwhelming majority of Muslim women do not cover their face. Even the Saudi Arabia and Iran the two most conservative countries in the so called Muslim world the covering of the face is not mandated.

      B) More and more Muslim women are choosing the hijab over the burqa. In fact the burqa that we saw in old Indian movies is now getting out of “fashion”.

      C) Should the west be worried or frustrated about a minority of Muslim women choosing to wear the niqab? Or should they be more worried about the poverty and lack of education and health care in some of the poorest Muslim countries?

      D) Indoctrination can occur via media, peer pressure ect. Women in the western world are “expected” to wear certain clothes to be accepted as equals in the society. A girl wearing long skirts in college will be called a weirdo by her classmates. Peer pressure and pressure from society on women are issues we cant brush aside.

  2. Feminist extremism challenging the cultural identity of Muslim women//

    Feminism does not question “cultural identity” the fight the patriarchal nature, denial of equal rights and oppression of women in religion.

    1. Muslim women say that in the west women are made to do the cat walk without much clothes on and men sit and give them scores. They say it is oppression and objectification of women. So it is important to hear what Muslim women feel about their culture and alternate cultures before we prescribe them solutions. Actually we cant do much in reality. The change will come from Muslims irrespective of our opinions on patriarchy and oppression.

  3. A) An overwhelming majority of Muslim women do not cover their face. Even the Saudi Arabia and Iran the two most conservative countries in the so called Muslim world the covering of the face is not mandated.

    Which world are you living in? In Saudi even non muslim women which are not the citizens of US/UK have to cover faces or the religious police and random people will harass them. Ask any Indian women who works in Saudi. Have you heard about the Iran’s “hair revolution” ?

    B) More and more Muslim women are choosing the hijab over the burqa.
    More are educated and hence empowered more than before, the gradual change is visible from the dark black cloth that cover them to more stylish outfits. Eventually it won’t be there at all.

    C) Should the west be worried or frustrated about a minority of Muslim women choosing to wear the niqab? Or should they be more worried about the poverty and lack of education and health care in some of the poorest Muslim countries?
    Typical logical fallacy, both are important. Every rational, progressive, liberal person be will worried about these despite of being from west, middle east or east. You might have noticed

    Women in the western world are “expected” to wear certain clothes to be accepted as equals in the society//
    Muslim women say that in the west women are made to do the cat walk without much clothes on and men sit and give them scores. They say it is oppression and objectification of women.//

    They are not made to wear anything to prove anything, a person can wear whatever they like.
    Muslim women will say that since they are indoctrinated with the idea that their value and modesty lies in cover up in public and showing skin devalues them.

    A girl wearing long skirts in college will be called a weirdo by her classmates//
    NO

    Peer pressure and pressure from society on women are issues we cant brush aside.//
    applies to every community and person.

    So it is important to hear what Muslim women feel about their culture and alternate cultures before we prescribe them solutions//
    Ofcourse, the conversation should happen, and the defence to that conversation is sometimes “its my right to do so” ofcourse you have the right, on the other side people have to right to say that bring and practicing a 1300 year old regressive custom wrapped in religion to their progressive society is uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean muslim women have to walk in swim suits, its a strawman you used a few times.

    The change will come from Muslims irrespective of our opinions on patriarchy and oppression.//
    The change should and only come from their part, that’s what the liberals expect. Its just that you cannot shut the social conversation with “its my right to do so”

    1. I live in KSA ,my wife doesn’t cover her face ( and a vast majority of women don’t ). Its not mandatory. Most (most) Saudi women however do cover their face.

    2. Ayaan had called for the complete subjugation of all Muslims using military means. Also asked “moderate muslims” to convert to Christianity. Not sure how this person can be taken seriously.
      Sorry I edited your comment to remove the link because the author is on record comparing Muslim head gear to KKK and iSIS.
      People leave and join Islam all the time. As per PEWs estimates there will be more people joining Islam than leaving.

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