By Farzana Hassan
January 31, 2019
It is time again for us to politely ignore World Hijab Day. This day allotted to the Hijab – a regressive, patriarchal and cumbersome garment – has been observed every February 1 since 2013. The farce has spread to many nations now. The objective is to normalize the Hijab amongst Muslims and to exhort non-Muslims to accept this as an undeniable symbol of Islam.
Let it be known once and for all that the Hijab is most certainly not a symbol of Islam.
One reason is purely theological: the Hijab is not decreed by Islam. There is no explicit injunction in the Qur’an stating women must cover their hair. The holy book is clear on other injunctions but on this issue it is gleefully ambiguous.
The terminology could have been precise. God did not have to mince words when decreeing acceptable garb for Muslim women, but no verse states plainly, “Muslim women – cover your hair.” What we have is commentary and interpretation on verses of a general nature that recommend modesty, for men as much as for women.
Another reason is cultural. Only 30% of Muslim women worldwide observe the Hijab. Are the dominant 70% not good Muslims? Would fundamentalists simply deny their “Muslimness” because they have chosen not to cover their hair? What gives them the right to pass such a judgment?
Many of those who cover their hair do so because local laws prescribe it, for example in Iran. Few speak of their repressed rights.
Islam should be proud that it has adherents of many different stripes. No one should have the power to question how the faithful choose to express their religiosity.
The press release for Hijab Day 2019 brazenly calls on women of all faiths to wear the garment to show solidarity with “Muslim Women.” This means solidarity with a minority who cover their hair, some by choice but many by force. What about the dissident majority? Who will show solidarity with us among Islamists?
The Hijab, then, is a symbol not of Islam but of its more belligerent cousin, Islamism, which in all its dimensions is an aggressive political movement that seeks to expand Islam’s visibility by promoting what it considers its symbols.
Muslim women who adhere to the Islamist view claim piety but wear the Hijab as a political statement rather than a religious requirement. They and their supporters, including naive liberal apologists outside the faith, insist that the Hijab is a religious obligation, but it most certainly is not. Moderate Muslim women have ditched this ancient and inauthentic garb in favour of practical modern clothing. Their religion resides in their hearts, not on their skin.
Thankfully, there are challenges to Islamism and in particular to the Hijab. Iranian reform groups have asked women of other faiths not to support this. One tactic is the awkward but noble hashtag #WorldHijabDay does not reflect struggles women have with patriarchal interpretations of Hijab.
No one should be forced to wear the Hijab, and no one should be encouraged to wear it to show solidarity with a political movement that strives to subjugate women.
If any solidarity needs to be shown, it is to Muslim women who continue to live under repressive Sharia laws that force them into veiling and segregation.