By Shireen Qudosi
January 9, 2019
Late last year I decided I wouldn’t be
talking about hijab again. Yet, we’re just a week into the New Year, and I’m
talking about this dog-eared subject once more. Why?
Because of World Hijab Day
Because what movements like World Hijab Day
do to Muslim women like myself and my sisters in this fight. Muslim women are
routinely verbally attacked by supporters of propagandist celebrations like
World Hijab Day. Those who have left the faith but still are tethered to it by
culture and experience, are also attacked for being vocal about that
Because of how talking about hijab
distracts from the real 21st-Century feminist conversations we must be having.
I hope this is the last time I have to talk
about hijab again as a reformer. This is the last of what I want to say on this
subject for the foreseeable future.
Hijab as a Tool of Social Engineering
While most agree a woman has the right to
choose her wardrobe — and that hijab as part of her wardrobe should also be her
choice — Muslim women in the United States have been subjected to a perverse
social engineering. Over the last few years, American Muslim women who choose
not to wear hijab run the risk of being ostracized from the Muslim community
(as that community is represented by Islamists and their allies). These Muslim
women struggle against being alienated or blotted out when it comes to being
seen as authentic representations of a Muslim woman. Think of it as a social or
media burqa, a deliberate erasure of identity and belonging because one’s
presence doesn’t check off all the boxes for what defines a Muslim woman.
This is in part due to a few reasons,
The trend of
hijab normalization in the U.S
insistence on only showcasing hijab-clad women either in photography or video
when covering stories that feature Muslim women
In the last few years, young Muslim
children in ad campaigns and social messaging are represented as being in a
hijab, including girls as young as four or five. Not only is this a soft form
of child abuse, it also reinforces the idea that you’re only a Muslim woman if
you cover your hair.
Calls for global hijab acceptance such as #WorldHijabDay
further normalize hijab as a mainstream feminist and religious issue when it is
When You’re Talking About Hijab, You’re Not
Talking About …
And That’s a Big Problem.
Wearing the hijab is not a religious issue
because the hijab is not mandated in Islam. In fact, like FGM, child marriages,
and honor killings, these are cultural practices that attached themselves onto
a faith. It’s also a myth that wearing the hijab is some critical feminist
issue. Critical feminist issues include:
Having your children ripped from your arms
as you’re forced to enter Chinese re-education camps for Uighur Muslims.
Being literally dragged kicking and
screaming back to Saudi Arabia after trying to flee that country as a woman (an
especially as an ex-Muslim woman).
Women and girls suffering as refugees, ripe
for the picking by human traffickers across dangerous migrant routes.
Critical feminist issues are where your
identity, livelihood, spirit, happiness and right to live are crushed where you
are destroyed if not annihilated for simply existing.
It is not a critical feminist issue that
some Muslim women’s feelings are hurt because some non-Muslim doesn’t like,
understand, or approve of their decision to wear the hijab just like it is not
a critical feminist issue that my right to be seen as a Muslim (or my
visibility as a strong feminist and Muslim in a public space) is degraded by
the same agents that prop up the hijab as some symbol of feminism. These are
grievances and annoyances, but they are not critical feminist issues as they’ve
been made to appear.
I don’t care if you wear the hijab. I don’t
care if you don’t wear the hijab. I care that we are still talking about hijab.
If you want a real war, there are nine
battlefields I listed above. Outside of feminism, there are many more. Put down
the easy conversation that only gives the hijab more attention and fanfare,
more undeserved relevance in society, and enter the battlefields where real
wars are being waged.
Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.