A couple of weeks back, there was some media attention over the 'anti-hijab' protests in Iran. It got me thinking about all the justifications I was given growing up for state-enforced veiling and how unconvincing these justifications are to me now that I'm an adult and have had time to think through these things. So here are my thoughts:
1- Worship is for God only
Hijab is an act of worship and acts of worship should not be forced. What's the point of wearing the hijab if it isn't for God? Doesn't the Quran say that there is no compulsion in religion?
That was a rhetorical question by the way.
The Quran does say this and yet, certain 'Islamic' states (ahem, Saudi and Iran) still force women to wear the hijab.
2- Modesty vs head-covering
Let's not confuse headscarves with modesty. A woman in long, loose clothing is modest even if her head is uncovered. There is no logical way you can argue that a woman who simply doesn't cover her hair, but covers everywhere else is immodest. I can accept a 'modesty' related dress code for men and women in conservative/religious societies. Varying dress codes or dress restrictions can be found in different countries all over the world. This, in itself, is not the issue. But I can't accept the inclusion of a headscarf within the framework of modest dress. For me it just doesn't make any sense.
But Alwia, everyone defines modesty in different ways. Some people may feel that uncovering hair is also immodest.
To this I say: There is a difference between a woman's boobs, her arse and her hair. If you feel that a woman with her hair out, is as immodest as a woman with her breasts out or her butt bouncing in a thong, you have serious issues.
Seriously, some people have such a fit when a Muslim woman shows a bit of hair, you'd think she just flashed her nipples.
Damn...that hairline is sexy...
Also, if a man gets aroused when he sees a woman's exposed ponytail, he must either have a hair fetish or some psycho-sexual disorder. We need to stop thinking that it is acceptable, natural or normal for men to be this perverted. Seriously, feet turn them on. Hair turns them on. Nails turn them on. Moles turn them on. Wearing a tent turns them on. Simply existing turns them on...there is nothing left for us to cover boys.
3- We must follow the religion
But the religion says correct hijab includes covering the hair.
Whether it does or doesn't is irrelevant. The point is, seeing as the the state doesn't force men to pray and fast, then it shouldn't enforce mandatory head-covering on women.
But Alwia, it's not the same. This falls under the principle of public displays of sinning. You can do whatever you want at home, just not in public.
Okay, I get that in a 'Islamic' society you want to maintain a certain social environment. You don't want people getting drunk in public, for example or fornicating on a bus or something. It's a public indecency issue because there are many 'sins' that are not policed by the state. No one stops you if you're backbiting or lying in a cafe. No one stops men when they don't lower their gaze, gawk at women and hit on them. Modesty can fall under the concept of public indecency, but seeing as hair, I would argue, is not indecent in itself, I don't see why head-covering specifically would be enforced. This brings me to the next point:
4- What about the non-Muslims?
You can demand modest dress from non-Muslims as part of a public indecency policy. You can ask them to cover more than they usually would do. But the headscarf is an article of clothing that relates to Muslim identity. Forcing women who are not Muslim or not religious to represent Islam is silly.
Remember that time you complained that a woman didn't represent Islam 'correctly'? Well maybe you shouldn't have forced her to represent the religion then...
5- The headscarf protects women and is good for society
I remember seeing a statistic that claimed that 99% of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed by men at some point. In Saudi, women are covered from head to toe and still get hit on. No matter how much we cover, men always stare and flirt. The hijab, with both of its identity and modesty elements, helps desexualise women, but it does NOT protect them.
Because sexual harassment is connected with men's inability to control themselves and the law's inability to make them accountable for the way they behave. It's not a clothing issue.
Now, this was not intended to be an anti-hijab post. I wear a headscarf but have been feeling for some time that there is something very 'un-Islamic' and unjust about state-enforced head veiling. It feels like another example of this pattern we see with governments selectively restricting women, while allowing men to get away with a lot of unethical, illegal and un-Islamic behavior.
What does everyone else think about this? I'm interested to know your thoughts in the comments below. There was this annoying email request pop-up that I removed from the comments section, so comment away!
See you next week :)