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Hijab: A Sartorial Manifestation Of Stockholm Syndrome

By Sumit Paul, New Age Islam

3 April 2022

Now That The Religio-Political Furore Over Hijab Has Subsided Slightly, It's Time To Assess The Whole Issue In A Disenchanted And Unprejudiced Manner

First of all, nowhere in 6, 236 verses of Al-Furqan, does one find the categorical mention of veil or hijab as mandatory on women. The Quran speaks of female modesty and its sacrosanct sanctity but doesn't make it a sine qua non.

According to Umberto Eco, the father of Semiotics (Science of signs and symbols), this particularly oppressive 'piece of clothing' was once imposed by men on helpless women of the Arabian desert and women had to wear hijab despite their unwillingness. They had no choice. But after 9/11, Muslim mindset changed collectively. The very women, who raised their voice against this disgustingly primitive practice, are now flaunting their veils quite confidently, calling it a sign of their 'empowerment' and identity. When the victims themselves start justifying the obscure religious rituals and practices, it becomes ' Religious justification of the Stockholm Syndrome'.

In this syndrome, the victim/ captive starts sympathising with his/ her captor/ tormentor. So, in this specific context, hijab has become a subconscious sartorial justification/manifestation of Stockholm Syndrome. Whether it's burqa among Muslim women or Karva Chauth or numerous religious fasts observed by Hindu women, it's woman who has to suffer in the name of religion.

Salman Rushdie rightly said that burqa is a woman's ' private prison.' It's like a moving tent and to quote B R Ambedkar, the most hideous and disconcerting sight on earth is to see a 'Muslim woman on a summer afternoon concealed from top to bottom in a crow-black dress.' Every religious practice comes into existence out of a need and that need becomes a religious dogma.

Burqa became a necessity in the early days of Islam when the desert was rife with warring tribes and they used to take away women as booty. Their faces were covered with burqa so that the invaders couldn't see them. Moreover, the desert tornados in that part are so violent that even men used to cover their faces and they still do when they venture out in the blistering desert heat. Burqa, even if it's justified by 'educated' women, can never be accepted by those who believe in gender equality. If the entire Europe is casting aspersions on burqa, it shouldn't  be viewed as 'Islamophobia'.

Why should the Christian or Judaistic Europe be afraid of Islam? Burqa is being condemned universally because it's a blatant sign of Islam's religious chauvinism, perpetrated and perpetuated by men. Does burqa really change a woman from within? Can a mere item of apparel change a woman completely? No offence meant to the burqa-clad women or Islam in general, but I've seen burqa-clad prostitutes on the streets of Tehran, Cairo, Tripoli, Ankara, among others. Have the Muslim women ever thought that the feminine modesty doesn't require a symbolical ostentation in the form of a veil? Have they ever thought that it's sheer tokenism?

Nowadays, Muslim women have started covering their hands and fingers as their clerics are telling them that whole body must be covered and even the uncovered fingers are sacrilegious!! You'll directly go to hell and will be there forever. And women are following these stupid fatwas (edicts/ decrees). These Muslim women don't understand that they, like their men in beard, are ghettoising themselves and are indulging in 'self-pigeonholing' (Noam Chomsky's phrase) by wearing a burqa and carrying a tent. It also shows the patronising attitude of these burqa-loving Muslim women towards those who don't wear it.

Are the women, who don't wear it, fallen ones? Why should one's religion and a skewed sense of morality and modesty be made public? All religions, not just Islam, believe in totemism. A Christian will flaunt his/ her cross, a Hindu will say Jai Shri Ram or Jai Shri Krishna when he'll meet someone, a Sikh will be recognised from far away because of his turban and so on. Burqa is just a totem. It's a loud totem that gives a false sense Rf ' having one's own space.' Honestly speaking, subconsciously every Muslim woman resents it but she can't help it. And those who wear it on their own, want to prove that they've not lost their deep religious grounding. This is sanctimony. You don't require emblems to show your religious affinity. When a few years ago, a pornographic Malyali female writer late Kamla Das embraced Islam at the age of 73 and rechristened herself as Suraiyya, she began to wear hijab. Now tell me, who's that pervert who'll look at a granny? No, she had to show her new religious identity. There's an Urdu adage: Naya Musalmaan Zyada Pyaaz Khata Hai (A new Muslim devours onions). All the burqa-clad Muslim women seem to be neo-Muslims, who're eager to show their Islam on their sleeve, nay on their face!


An occasional columnist for New Age Islam, Sumit Paul is a researcher in comparative religions, with special reference to Islam. He has contributed articles to world's premier publications in several languages including Persian.


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