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Feb 08 2014

Plymouth University Islamic Society – You Really Do Not Get It

This one’s allegedly from the pages of the Plymouth University Islamic Society and it’s rather indicative of what’s wrong with the way a large number of Muslims think.

If you don’t cover your hair you might as well be naked and shaved…

If I were to be a smart arse about this then I would point out that both chickens are nude. Chickens do not wear trousers. Animals do not have a notion of nudity since that would be stupid. 

No the message is clear. If you are without a hijab you may as well be nude. Everything else doesn’t matter as much as that one thing. It is all in the hair is it not? Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Islam?

I am told repeatedly that Muslim women are empowered by the Hijab. I am told that I cannot understand it because my culture does not have such a code. I understand the implication is that “hindu women are easy nude sluts” but if a lady wants to be promiscuous and shag about then all I have to say is…

“Use Protection and Be Safe, Here Be Dickheads”.

No, I am afraid the problem is the people who say I do not understand the issue forget that Hindus have an equivalent too, in addition, there are moral codes born out of Islamic and Victorian influences in Hindu and Indian culture that create equivalents of the Hijab and indeed the Purdah system is not unique to Islam and is currently a South Asian issue.

Rapists are scared of faceless and voiceless women. Everyone knows that! Ever seen a faceless and voiceless woman get raped? Nope! I proved my point!

It doesn’t matter what the Chicken Wears, both are equally likely to end up on a plate at KFC. I am not saying people who eat meat or at KFC are rapists, but we are “Predators” of the chicken. It doesn’t matter what women wear they are going to get raped and assaulted by predators (NSFW – Breasts – The site is Muslim women in Pakistan talking about how they are made to feel ashamed of their breasts and contains images they have put up.). It’s done by the same person who runs the Nice Mangoes blog. Also NSFW

They all wore the hijab and it meant not one ounce of difference.

Everyone defends the hijab and indeed the Niqab and Burkha as a choice. Not really, it’s a broken choice. It’s a choice that is filled with expectations and bias. You can chose to wear blue and suffer the consequences of your choice, or you can wear pink and gain the rewards for wearing it. That’s a choice too. That’s the same sort of choice on offer. The few women who do have it as a real choice are far outweighed by women who do not and even those that insist that it’s a choice often ignore the fact that the choice they had was in the context of being protected by overarching rules that can interfere.

There are women  who face death, mutilation and abuse for making similar choices. It’s not a real choice. The hijab and the burkha and niqab do not exist outside Islamic culture and are strongly associated with other issues.

Adherence to the Purdah is strongly co-related to increased rates of domestic violence. The restriction on women’s mobility limits their ability to access health care and family planning services, especially for unmarried girls. In rural Pakistan, unmarried women and girls had trouble accessing healthcare, even in their own villages due to purdah; all types of women had difficulty accessing facilities outside of their villages because they had to be accompanied. The same is seen in my experience in India. In addition contraception use is lower in such families as is reproductive health.

It keeps women out of economic power and out of political power. In every part of life they are excluded by an actual physical curtain and it’s maintained under the guise of modesty, To the people who claim that these outfits empower women because in parts of the world there are people who wear this who DO participate in society, I must point out that they would participate a lot more easily without these things and they are participating IN SPITE of this rather than due to it. And you may laud them as phenomenal feel good stories but it’s no different to the dialogue about a young man who fought through poverty and became a millionaire. We cannot hold his story as an example for all poor people and use that as an excuse to cut income support and benefits.

And bear in mind this original post was done at a University, a place of learning and was specifically designed to make the Hijab stop being a genuine choice. Are we to defend a practice that for centuries has kept women down in Hinduism? No, we tore it down. We didn’t give a shit because being Hindu never meant you had to follow ancient rules. We are still fighting this today in many rural villages where women STILL hide behind the Purdah and indeed in many Muslim communities. The fight is more of a Muslim one because the Hindus in the west don’t practice it as much. There are still throwbacks to it, but they are rare.

We understand why it’s harmful because we have lived it ourselves. So when people (especially white non-Muslim feminists) tell me that I don’t understand this, they forget that Hindus not only have had such a system but are in the process of fighting it through education and empowerment across India.

This sort of thinking is two fold, it makes the Hijab or the Burkha or the Niqab the ideal to attain and everyone else has fallen short. Even if you are a good person you can be a better one by wearing these. It creates the notion of good/bad girls and good girls always wear these. It literally makes you hate who you are and be so ashamed of who you are that you hide behind the curtain.

We killed Sati, the goddess of the pyre. Her followers are few and do not worship anymore. We are strangling the life out of the Caste System and every day there exist Indian women who throw back this nonsensical curtain. Yet we still have Islam and it’s entrenched misogyny protecting this nonsense. Every day we fight it’s remnants. At this particular time in this particular week this is important too.

One of the biggest forces fighting the Purdah in India is a day that we often consider as vapid, mindless, capitalist and tacky. Valentine’s day means a lot to many Indians who demonstrate their love and in a small way throw back the curtain even more..

They defend it because they are told from a young age that it’s integral to being a good person, that without the Purdah a woman is nothing but used and dirty. Purdah is not just a silly piece of cloth but it’s a state of mind that goes with it.

And it’s a damn shame that Plymouth University’s Islamic Soc is running photos like this. It’s a step backwards into the past and a further entrenchment of a system of entrenched sexism within the Asian community.

10 comments

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  1. 1
    rq

    So women are like chickens (and sometimes candy). Wonderful. Makes me feel so human.

  2. 2
    richardelguru

    I’m no expert, but the fowl on the left seems to be a hen, and the one on the right to be a cock.
    So, do they think that a hijab is what makes one a woman??

  3. 3
    opposablethumbs

    … and somehow it’s completely impossible to even conceive of the notion that women are agents in their own right, rather than the objects of men’s gaze/judgement/consumption. No inkling that a woman can be anything but what men define her as! Madonna/whore, much?

    It keeps women out of economic power and out of political power. In every part of life they are excluded by an actual physical curtain and it’s maintained under the guise of modesty, To the people who claim that these outfits empower women because in parts of the world there are people who wear this who DO participate in society, I must point out that they would participate a lot more easily without these things and they are participating IN SPITE of this rather than due to it. And you may laud them as phenomenal feel good stories but it’s no different to the dialogue about a young man who fought through poverty and became a millionaire. We cannot hold his story as an example for all poor people and use that as an excuse to cut income support and benefits.

    Thank you for this article, Avi.

  4. 4
    Pierce R. Butler

    Somebody plucked a live chicken just to make that stupid photo?

    I thought the British had, and enforced, some serious animal-cruelty laws. PUIS needs investigating.

  5. 5
    Avicenna

    It’s a product of crossbreeding for a genetic defect that stops feathers from growing. Not a plucked chicken! They are naturally like that.

  6. 6
    Bruce

    I wonder if the people who put together those photos have heard of the expression:
    “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”?

    To me, that means that if they were sincere about this issue, then all those guys would all wear the hijab themselves. If they don’t need it, then why would women?

    Of course, my joke is pointless, as we all know they are just looking for an excuse to keep the dominance of their gender. I am male also, but I am not so insecure as to fear a loss of dominance. Why is it that their beliefs seem to make them so afraid of equality?

  7. 7
    Pierce R. Butler

    Avicenna @ # 5: They are naturally like that.

    For a rather stretched value of “natural”. Still, that’s (somewhat of) a relief to hear this.

    (Apologies if this comment double-posts, but I think the anti-DDoSware ate my first submission.)

  8. 8
    TinAge

    And of course, the “covered” chicken is pure white (think: purity, etc.), and the uncovered one is brown (think: dirty, brazen).

  9. 9
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Great post Avicenna. Well said.

  10. 10
    exi5tentialist

    At my local beach, in England, women wear pieces of cloth covering some areas of their upper bodies. Men don’t. This rule is so rigidly enforced as a norm that nobody feels the need to dehumanise people by comparing them to photographs of animals. I would not go around telling those women to take their differential clothes off. I don’t see why I should tell women not to wear any of the clothes they choose to, any more than I should tell Taureg men to remove their veils.

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