On International Women’s Day 2019, the BBC ran a piece that called the niqab (pictured above) as a “The Wardrobe of Rebellion.” Activist and writer Khadija Khan brought attention to the story, sharing:
When the world was celebrating freedom and equality for women on International Women’s Day 2019, shame that BBC News chose to list Niqab that represents a so-called modesty culture and symbolizes oppression and subjugation of women of Muslim heritage, in it’s “Wardrobe of Rebellion.” BBC News should be called out for choosing to ignore millions of women facing unabated violence and discrimination in the name of this regressive modesty culture.
Khan brought the story to the attention of other women’s rights activists who had a few thoughts to share. Clarion Project’s National Correspondent Shireen Qudosi was laser focused on the radicalization element of how BBC’s niqab spotlight was framed, highlighting the story of Sarah Ali that BBC used to discuss the niqab.
Filtering the story through the lens of Clarion Project’s Preventing Violent Extremism program, Shireen further added,
If they [BBC] wanted to position wearing the veil as a response to the objectification of female beauty, consumerism, and exploitation of sexuality, then ok sure. But this is nonsense. This is grooming children toward radicalization.
What Will I Wear Today? 101 to Muslim Women’s Clothing – Clarion’s Shillman Fellow Ran Meir reports.
Journalist Jennine Khalik further challenged the notion of rebellions as defined by the BBC in this framework:
Rebellion is defying patriarchal expectations and pressures placed on women to cover up, and challenging these age-old ideas modesty. That’s rebellion. If women choose to wear niqab (and very few do), fine. But it is not ‘rebellion.’ It is much harder for women to wear what they want in conservative Muslim societies. It’s great that in more liberal societies (East or West), women can wear hot pants, hijabs, niqabs and crop-tops. This can’t be said for conservative societies that expect women to cover up more. It’s important to have these conversations without far right bigots hijacking them and pseudo-liberals diminishing the struggles of women who fight daily – on a very personal, rational level – to dress how they want, and push the boundaries of what they can wear. This is not against anyone and I respect the choices of these women. Our clothing choices, no matter what they are, are shaped by the male gaze in some way because this is the world we live in. The point here is the pressure to cover up/be “modest” is far more intense, often driven by fear, shame, warped ideas of purity, and institutionalized in many places – legally, socially, culturally, religious. It is a more difficult thing to resist.
When talking about niqab and oppression, columnist Allison Pearson reminds us of the population of women who (under ISIS rule) were forced to wear a niqab.
What’s important to notice is the trend toward glamorizing or romanticizing dangerous radical elements of regressive cultures as something to be desired or aspire toward.