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Why I’m Sick of Talking About Hijab

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Muslim American women participate in World Hijab Day. (Photo: Mohammed Elshamy / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)
A Muslim American woman participates in World Hijab Day. (Photo: Mohammed Elshamy / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Late last year I decided I wouldn’t be talking about hijab again. Yet, we’re just a week into the New Year, and I’m talking about this dog-eared subject once more. Why? 

  • Because of World Hijab Day
  • Because what movements like World Hijab Day do to Muslim women like myself and my sisters in this fight. Muslim women are routinely verbally attacked by supporters of propagandist celebrations like World Hijab Day. Those who have left the faith but still are tethered to it by culture and experience, are also attacked for being vocal about that experience.
  • Because of how talking about hijab distracts from the real 21st-Century feminist conversations we must be having.

I hope this is the last time I have to talk about hijab again as a reformer. This is the last of what I want to say on this subject for the foreseeable future.

Hijab as a Tool of Social Engineering

While most agree a woman has the right to choose her wardrobe — and that hijab as part of her wardrobe should also be her choice — Muslim women in the United States have been subjected to a perverse social engineering. Over the last few years, American Muslim women who choose not to wear hijab run the risk of being ostracized from the Muslim community (as that community is represented by Islamists and their allies). These Muslim women struggle against being alienated or blotted out when it comes to being seen as authentic representations of a Muslim woman. Think of it as a social or media burqa, a deliberate erasure of identity and belonging because one’s presence doesn’t check off all the boxes for what defines a Muslim woman.

This is in part due to a few reason, including:

  • The trend of hijab normalization in the U.S.
  • Leftist media’s insistence on only showcasing hijab-clad women either in photography or video when covering stories that feature Muslim women. 
  • In the last few years, young Muslim children in ad campaigns and social messaging are represented as being in a hijab, including girls as young as four or five. Not only is this a soft form of child abuse, it also reinforces the idea that you’re only a Muslim woman if you cover your hair. 
  • Calls for global hijab acceptance such as #WorldHijabDay further normalize hijab as a mainstream feminist and religious issue when it is neither.

When You’re Talking About Hijab, You’re Not Talking About …
And That’s a Big Problem.

Wearing the hijab is not a religious issue because the hijab is not mandated in Islam. In fact, like FGM, child marriages, and honor killings, these are cultural practices that attached themselves onto a faith. It’s also a myth that wearing the hijab is some critical feminist issue. Critical feminist issues include:

  1. Female genital mutilation
  2. Forced marriages
  3. Child marriages
  4. Honor killings
  5. Sexual slavery
  6. Pedophilia
  7. Having your children ripped from your arms as you’re forced to enter Chinese re-education camps for Uighur Muslims.
  8. Being literally dragged kicking and screaming back to Saudi Arabia after trying to flee that country as a woman (an especially as an ex-Muslim woman).
  9. Women and girls suffering as refugees, ripe for the picking by human traffickers across dangerous migrant routes. 

Critical feminist issues are where your identity, livelihood, spirit, happiness and right to live are crushed. Where you are destroyed if not annihilated for simply existing. 

It is not a critical feminist issue that some Muslim women’s feelings are hurt because some non-Muslim doesn’t like, understand, or approve of their decision to wear the hijab. Just like it is not a critical feminist issue that my right to be seen as a Muslim (or my visibility as a strong feminist and Muslim in a public space) is degraded by the same agents that prop up the hijab as some symbol of feminism. These are grievances and annoyances, but they are not critical feminist issues as they’ve been made to appear. 

I don’t care if you wear the hijab. I don’t care if you don’t wear the hijab. I care that we are still talking about hijab.

If you want a real war, there are nine battlefields I listed above. Outside of feminism, there are many more. Put down the easy conversation that only gives the hijab more attention and fanfare, more undeserved relevance in society, and enter the battlefields where real wars are being waged. 

 

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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.