An update on that outrage-sparking post I did the other day about the putative similarity (or identity) between racism and “Islamophobia” which in the comments became also a discussion of the hijab. An update because a trackback just came in from a post by my noisiest critic, Sarah Jones, who has been being my noisiest critic on Twitter ever since I published the post. An update because she gets some things wrong, and also because I don’t disagree with her about 100% of all of everything.
From her post:
When a ruling class targets a minority class, it’s never just about religion. Religious and racial prejudice have historically walked hand in hand. I’ve been repeatedly accused of trying to argue that we can never criticize religion, and I want to make it clear that this is not a thing I have ever or will ever argue. Rather, I’m arguing that our critiques need to be historically informed. We need to understand and acknowledge that religious prejudice exists and that it is linked to racial prejudice.
Certainly. That’s why I said, in the post,
It’s getting to be a boring trope to point out that Islam is not a race, but all the same, it’s not, even though it’s true that Muslims are often treated as a despised racial group. Islam is not a race and “White” is not a religion.
Ok but one gets what she means. Islam is not in fact a race but Muslims are mostly de facto non-white; a Muslim who is white is usually a convert or possibly a child of converts; there are social and political issues one can talk about.
See? That’s the bit where I acknowledge it. No doubt not in the way Jones would have thought more acceptable, but nevertheless I did.
We need to understand the consequences of reducing a community to a monolithically barbaric Other.
When white liberals say that the hijab is intrinsically misogynist, that’s what they’re doing. They are calling this symbol, which is not their symbol, which is, for better or worse, associated with a racial identity they do not share, backwards. They have declared open season on anyone who wears it.
That’s the bit she got wrong. I didn’t say that. The post wasn’t even about the hijab, and in the comments, other people claimed I had said that, but I didn’t say it. We paraphrase people inaccurately sometimes – I do it too – when we’re annoyed. “vexorian” claimed I had said it, but “vexorian” was wrong.
Please note that Ophelia is the one who just decided that the Hijab is a misogynistic symbol. But this seems to say more about Ophelia having a partial view of Islam as a religion with only extremists and no moderates.
Except that I hadn’t said that. I accepted vexorian’s way of putting it when I replied, but that was for the sake of argument.
Not at all. You seem to be assuming that all Muslim women wear the hijab, but “moderates” (I would prefer to call them liberals or secular democrats [e.g. Tehmina Kazi]) are much less likely to wear the hijab, let alone see it as obligatory.
I haven’t “just decided” that the hijab is a misogynistic symbol. I’m not the one person on earth who thinks that.
Moderates, secularists, liberals, democrats tend to be the ones who resist the pressure to “cover up” while the fundamentalists are the ones who apply the pressure. It’s always bizarre (or worse) to see “Western” liberals siding with the latter rather than the former.
Jones has said repeatedly on Twitter that I say the hijab is intrinsically misogynist. She’s wrong; I don’t say that.
Of course I don’t think it is, any more than a woolen cap is or a muffler is or a black hoodie is.
What I do say is that it has baggage, and that that makes it dubious for feminists (for instance) to treat it as a feminist act to put it on.
I could be wrong about that, but that’s my claim. My claim is not that it’s “intrinsically” misogynist. (My claim is generally not that it’s misogynist, period, but rather that it’s sexist.)