The burqa and the hijab are clear symbols of oppression. The covering of a woman’s face or hair is an extreme form of modesty that makes the statement that her mere existence is of a sexual nature. Rather than men being taught to control their sexual thoughts or impulses, the burden is laid solely upon the woman to keep the man from becoming aroused by her. Wearing a burqa or hijab is a public display of a male’s presumed ownership of the female’s body, making the statement that what a woman wears is a reflection of how a man will treat her. However, in recent political statements and fashion trends, the hijab is being displayed as an act of freedom because of certain women who choose to wear it.
Presenting the hijab as a symbol of freedom is a dangerous concept because it undercuts the oppression the hijab represents to women who are forced to wear it, and it misleads people into supporting oppression as a choice. Just because someone chooses to give up their freedom, it does not mean that choice has made them free. Harriet Tubman, a runaway slave who led over 300 hundred escaped slaves to freedom, is quoted as saying:
“I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”
Women who embrace the hijab are in many ways similar to slaves who remained loyal to their masters.
During the American slave trade, imported Africans were brutalized and tortured in the most horrendous ways in order to instill enough fear to keep them enslaved mentally. Slaves who tried to escape were torn to pieces by dogs, branded with searing hot irons, or whipped to death. The same fear tactics are utilized by Islamist through violent honor killings and torture, to keep women conformed to the hijab. Women who have refused to wear the hijab in strict Islamic countries have been raped, burned with acid, or murdered. The message of submission is paired with avoiding punishment. Therefore, a woman who claims that wearing the hijab is her choice for freedom is very similar to a slave who chooses to serve a master from fear of punishment. The level of enslavement may even cause a slave to report other runaways for a reward, much like a woman who enforces the hijab onto other women.
When certain women accept oppression and embrace it as a part of the culture, it creates an expectation for other women to be conformed to the same system of oppression. If Muslim men believe the only way for a woman to be respected in public is if she dons the burqa or hijab, then he is given license to molest, harass, and attack any woman who does not conform to the hijab. The more women embrace the burqa or hijab, the easier it is to single out and abuse women who refuse to wear it. Supporting women who choose oppression is a threat to the freedom of all women. The hijab can never be a symbol of freedom.
When Harriet Tubman led escaped slaves through the Underground Railroad she carried a gun to make sure no one tried to go back. This was because if one runaway turned away from freedom, all the runaway slaves would be caught. The choice to return to enslavement put the freedom of everyone else in jeopardy, and Harriet Tubman had to use extreme methods to insure that no one was denied their freedom. Freedom takes more than a serious of choices. Oppressed people can make just as many choices as a free person; the difference is what those choices are. Choosing to wear the hijab is simply a choice for oppression and choosing oppression is not freedom.
Jasmine Andrews is the author of Sullied Bride, which discusses the way misuse of Scripture in the Bible abuses women and slowly descends into Islamic oppression of women. Sullied Bride is available at Barnes & Noble or you can order Sullied Bride on Amazon.com