The hijab is not cultural, it’s compulsory!

Have you noticed how they are always able to ‘compromise’ when it comes to women’s rights? Well at least that’s what they call it. According to FIFA, the Football Federation, the hijab is cultural, thereby allowing the Islamic Republic of Iran’s women footballers to participate in the Olympics.

They call it cultural because it wouldn’t be allowed if it was deemed to be religious or political since such symbols are banned in the Olympics in order to create a neutral sporting environment.

FIFA may call it cultural in its compromise of women’s right but it is anything but.

Simply put, the football players would be arrested and imprisoned if they weren’t veiled as it is it the LAW in Iran. And millions of women and girls have been harrassed, fined, intimidated and arrested for ‘improper’ veiling over the past several decades.

Anyone who has ever taken an Iran Air flight will verify how quickly veils are removed the minute the airplane leaves Iranian airspace.

And anyone who knows anything about Iran knows the long and hard struggle that has taken place against compulsory veiling and sex apartheid.

Cultural, I think not!


  1. chaosof99 says

    While labellijg the hijab as cultural is definitely wrong (it is religious, no doubt), it is questionable what would help the women of Iran more, both symbolically and culturally. I think it does more good to allow Iran’s womens soccer team to participate with the hijab than it would to enforce the rule in its strictest sense and tell them that they can’t participate if they wear it. They wouldn’t be able to participate, at least not without any severe consequences, if it were to stand.

    In other words, I don’t think FIFA should punish the athletes and virtually bar them for participating because of the ridiculous religious rules of their home country.

    • noastronomer says

      “I think it does more good to allow Iran’s womens soccer team to participate with the hijab…”

      See what FIFA should do, according to their own rules, is to refuse to allow government interference in the Iranian soccer federation by banning all Iranian participation in international soccer.

      Yes, this means the men’s team doesn’t get to compete.

  2. MikeMa says

    Cultural as in slime mold growing in agar.

    Of course its religious and while the athletes might not get to compete if FIFA had balls, the Islamic Dictatorship of Iran would also suffer rather than being given a pass.

  3. SabsDkPrncs says

    On the topic of the hijab, my friend and I (we’re americans living in Abu Dhabi) not-so-respectfully disagree. Her thinking is the women wearing a hijab don’t think they are oppressed, therefore they are not oppressed. I strongly disagree with this concept, but I find it hard to articulate why, beyond it being a symbol of a patriarchal religion. “But they choose to do it, their husbands don’t make them, so why do you have a problem?”

    I’m sure I could find some nice clear arguments elsewhere, but most sites with any ideas critical of Islam are blocked here. I rather expect FTB to be added to the blocked list soon with the addition of your blog (which I am enjoying very much).

    • says

      Defending the veil as a question of ‘choice’ is good for those who want to sleep well at night without feeling bad about their position on things. However it’s a cop-out. Look, socially speaking – looking at the larger scheme of things – there is hardly any choice involved. Even if it’s not the rule, there is much intimidation and pressure surrounding its use. Even in Britain where there is freedom to choose what one wears, the Muslim Council of Britain has said there is no choice in the matter. The veil is a pre-requisite to be a good Muslim woman. Also you can find many instances were such things were promoted as choice in order to legitimise them. Black people wanted bantunstans in South Africa during apartheid for example. Or the academics in Mumbai who have researched and proven that out of the 40 plus women that committed suttee (throwing themselves on the burning pyres of their dead husbands only two didn’t do so voluntarily. The rest chose to do so and so this practice must be respected… In my opinion it is a method of controlling women. It is instituted so that women do not create fitna or chaos in society. It is like the chastity belt or footbinding. It is about controlling women and so is fundamentally wrong. Even if you find women who agree with it – as you always will – is it right? That’s the question your friend needs to answer.

    • MikeMa says

      Being unaware of oppression does not remove the oppression. It might be akin to being unaware of vaccines. You are still going to live in a world where lots of children die unnecessarily.

      Women are compelled to live as second class citizens and behave in a very restricted manner because of the Islamic religion. Even if they do not believe, they dress as though they do to lessen the hassle factor from family, the government, or male morons who act as enforcers.

  4. Snapp says

    Perhaps this is only tenuously related to the post, but can anyone recommend some good reading on Iran? Any good books for some background on the situation and recent history?

    • says

      Have you read Persepolis from Marjane Satrapi? Also I may be biased as I love Mansoor Hekmat but there are some very good articles on the history of Iran and the rise of Islamism in his archives that you won’t find anywhere. For list of those translated into English, please click here

    • says

      Back when I was in high school I read a book called Daughter of Persia and found it really interesting (just googled it – the author was Sattareh Farman Farmaian). Since up until then I’d known nothing about Iran except what’s on the news, back then I found it really fascinating to learn about Iran – especially how contrary to the black-clad-fanatical-religion image I’d had, these (admittedly fairly upper class) women didn’t wear veils and were educated. That is, until the fundamentalists took the place over.

  5. Aniya says

    I would consider wearing a veil a “choice” women make only if they feel free to remove it once they start wearing it. I have met some women who have skin and hearing problems after wearing the veil and they say they want to remove it but can’t. Just less than 3 months ago one of my cousins took a second wife. She started wearing a veil at the request of her husband. Just this week her relationship has ended. She doesn’t want to wear it in the first place and now she says she can’t remove it.

    My country – the Maldives is supposedly 100 percent Muslims. We converted from Buddhism to Islam in 1153. Maldivians are very religious in the sense they hold certain values and observe rituals, etc… It was just less than 20-30 years ago, that we heard people say as Muslims we should wear the veil or burka. The women in my family and among my relatives used to wear short dresses, skirts and sleeveless dresses. It wasn’t an issue. Today those who don’t wear the veil or burkha is becoming a minority. Now that most women are wearing the veil, they are now pushing women to wear black and loose clothes. It is suspected that female circumcision is on the rise too.

    Islamism is certainly a reality and I can see it very clearly in my country. The first push is for women to wear the veil. I believe the veil would certainly restricts women. (One of my friends who wore the veil was reluctant to go and watch a certain movie in a cinema abroad because she wore the burkha… Since my country is an island nation we have sea all around us and swimming is important for us… Let’s say if there are two women competing in swimming – one wearing the veil and the other without it… I am sure the veil will affect the speed of the one wearing it and also the one fully covered in a layer will not enjoy the sensation of water around her body to the same level as the one without it).. this is just to give a few examples.

    In my country now there is a strong trend for men to have multiple wives simultaneously. (Divorce never carries a stigma in my society and we have very high divorce rates due to a number of reasons and most Maldivian, male or female would marry more than one person in their life time)… Today, the good women is fast said to be the one who allows her husband to take an extra wife and save him from the sin of engaging in extra marital affairs!

    • says

      i think acc. to u the soe purpose of women in maldives is to swim in order to feel the cooling effect of sea water….
      great maldiveans………
      i think u can achieve greater heights with this philosophy

  6. says

    You probably know about it but just in case: there is a new movement in Iran fighting against “compulsory hijab” called 5×5 (Panj dar Panj).
    You can find more details in its facebook page (posed as the website of this comment)

  7. James Cross says

    It’s odd to read this thread as the logic contradicts the the argument itself.

    There are certainly women who are forced to wear clothes they don’t want to wear. And unfortunately governments such as Iran and Saudi Arabia to name a couple are guilty of this. They are also guilty of forcing men to do certain things such as have beards etc. But the focus tends to be on women.

    But when Turkey, for example or France, force women NOT to wear something — as the French government has done or as Turkey did prior to the current government — i.e. no hijab (Turkey) or veil (France) — then it’s OK.

    Why? The alleged reason is that all of these women are forced by oppressive men to don the clothing and only the enlightened laws of secularism can free them of their oppression.

    This is an incredibly bigoted argument.

    Now if you have an issue with Iran, that’s fine, but don’t slander all Muslim women who wear hijab as oppressed or all Muslim men as oppressors.

    You lose complete credibility with any thinking person.

    • says

      It’s not bigoted. You just don’t get the arguments as it is nuanced.
      Adult women have a right to wear the veil just as adults have the right to smoke, or remain in a violent situation and so on. Just because people have the right to do something doesn’t mean we also don’t have the right to criticise it. We get plenty criticised for not wearing the veil – we don’t go crying about it – we make our arguments. The veil – even if it is a free choice – is a tool for the suppression of women, like foot binding or the chastity belt. Plus free choice is deceptive when Islamism is in power. Also no one supports a ban on the veil for women. In France it was a ban on ALL conspicuous religious symbols in schools and public institutions because of secularism. Get the arguments before you rattle on about bigotry.

    • Janet says

      James, there’s a very big difference between men being forced to wear beards and women not only being forced to cover their faces but officially deprived of basic human rights. Can you really not see that?

      And in a culture in which women are blamed for male sexual violence, women who collude by covering their hair or faces are putting all other women in greater danger. Of course I’m not blaming women who are forced to do so.

    • White_the_Right says

      While referring as an example the current Turkish Government for freedom of hijab, you gave us a clue to understand your real intention. Since AKP government has a great success on mutilating the freedom of speech, and converting their country as the biggest jail for journalists, you have a good point to debate the freedom of hijab against our values. Just look to the following link, “Quick: What country jails the most journalists? If you guessed China, you were close, but no cigar. Twenty-seven reporters are in prison there, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York. If you guessed Iran, you’re getting warmer—forty-two in prison there—but you’re still off. How many of you guessed Turkey? Measuring strictly in terms of imprisonments, Turkey—a longtime American ally, member of NATO, and showcase Muslim democracy—appears to be the most repressive country in the world.
      According to the Journalists Union of Turkey, ninety-four reporters are currently imprisoned for doing their jobs. More than half are members of the Kurdish minority, which has been seeking greater freedoms since the Turkish republic was founded, in 1923. Many counts of arrested journalists go higher; the Friends of Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, a group of reporters named for two imprisoned colleagues, has compiled a detailed list of a hundred and four journalists currently in prison there.
      Read more:

  8. Hamzeth says

    Religion is a personal choice. The level to which you follow religion is also a personal choice. If you think that being born a Muslim and inculcating those values of Islam is a a handicap for you to have a gallivanting lifestyle, then I do not dispute your right to leave Islam.

    But I do seriously dispute your right to vilify Islam just in order to vindicate your decision to leave Islam. Just like it is your right to choose to leave Islam and not be hounded for it, it is the right of pious Muslim women who have found it right to be observant, not only by birth, but by choice as well, not to have explain ttheir own decision and be left about to mind their lives.

    In a nutshell, you are only fooling nobody but yourself, in your attempts to make your promiscuity, lack of culture, lack of morality and absence of a decent upbringing look “decent” by insulting observant Muslims and their own choice.

    • Karl Johann says

      When you get jailed for not wearing a certain piece of clothing I wouldn’t say that you had much choice in that matter.

      If only we were still walking around in our body hairs like so many other primates life would be a lot less complicated! 😉

    • says

      It is interesting how you see the right for apostates not to die for leaving Islam as an insult. This is obviously not a problem of Muslims as many Muslims – my parents included – find the death penalty for apostates abhorrent. It does, however say a lot about you…

  9. Maryams BeNamazie says

    Maryam Namazie wants you to wear bikini. As if dress code is the most important part of religion. Have you been to Harvard or Hopkins ?

  10. says

    After thirty years of dealing with the issue of hijab in the family and Islamic schools, I feel strongly that the only way to end discrimination is to work on making the wearing of hijab a matter of choice so that women can choose to wear it, or not, at any time or place in the world. Making the wearing of hijab compulsory needs to be associated with ignorance rather than holiness or moral uprightness. It is a personal matter and none of anyone’s business, and this includes both male and female members of the family of any age.

  11. Aryan Farsi says

    Could be there because of their local Climate, Extreme Harsh Sun, Desert, Sand storm, Sand Dunes with no buildings, or trees, these local Bedouin tribes, women and men had to protect their bodies by coverings from head to toe.
    Over time, Men used it to their advantage to Suppress and Oppress women as slave maids under this Religious Cults of Shiaa or Sunnii.
    I do agree, it is Compulsory Veiling and Sex Apartheid.

  12. ja'far says

    Your article is shockingly…expected. I gather you left Islam (your hatred for it being evidence?). It is indeed unfortunate that you [came to] view it as an oppressive religion, truly unfortunate. But I do believe that any [balanced] person who reads the life of the Prophet (pbuhhp) would see that he liberated and dignified women when they had been oppressed [Read his words – not blogs:]

    Anyone who looks at current and past (western) research would see the benefit of the hijab, and other laws of the religion (Pamela Paul anyone?)… If the hijab is so oppressive, why does the Virgin Mary always have one on in all her depictions? Maybe our dear Christian nuns should also be “liberated” from their “oppressive” religion and [male] rulers? But that’s not going to happen. Why? Because the war is with Muslims, those who still cover their hair and bodies, or grow beards, something the Christians have largely forgotten (Corinthians 11:6). The war is with those who want to preserve modesty and chastity, and belief in God. If the “west” wants pornography and atheism as it’s guiding principles, let them have their choice, but to encourage and help them to shove their beliefs down other’s throats in the name of “freedom for women” or “liberation from oppressive religion” is chastisable, and not very progressive/liberal/democratic. They employ a classic Edward Bernays tactic that we’ve seen over and over again. Bernays, father of PR, [basically] got women to start smoke cigarettes in the early 20th century, “torches of freedom”, we see the same today.

    Santayana said: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. “This quote is part of a theory on how knowledge is acquired, rather than a moral exhortation to pay attention to history”. [denseatoms-Now Public]

    Thank you for your time.
    Just realized you’re even called Maryam! That’s the definitely irony.

  13. GCBC says

    Many women are pressured to wear it but will not admit that publicly. I have heard women in the West say that the chose to wear and later say, in private that they were forced to do so by male family members. Everything that I have read in Muslim conical sources, lead me to believe that Islam is designed to control every aspect of an individual’s life. It is simply a matter of control and power and there is very little of faith in it all. As long as Islam controls people through fear, as it does, it is not a religion of faith, but fear. Most of it is designed to control women.

    Why are women punished so severely for small crimes while men can abuse and kill their female relatives with great leniency? 5t is all about power. Why do men have no responsibility for their own actions.? This is very strange. women have no power or control over their own lives and yet they alone are held responsible for the bad actions of the men. Are Muslim men so weak that they have no self control? It is a very untenable situation. why do you put up with this?

  14. Amani says

    I agree with the original blog post, Hijab is most definetly a religious obligation, although it does have a cultural contest aswell. I was surprised that they even have a female football team, as many religiouse schollars would dissaprove of that. But it illuminates a reality that I’d like to make clear.

    Islam is a religion with very specific rules and obligations, and a muslim country should naturaly impose these rules on it’s citizens, men and women alike. Our laws in the west were/are formed by people, and not everyone agrees with them, but they must abide by them. Islamic law has a divine origin. So in my opinion, as a proud and practicing muslim, it is better than any set of laws that we can create ourselves. However, an unfortunate and sad reality is that even if the laws are perfect, it does not mean that they will be implemented perfectly.

    You equate hijab with oppression because you beleive it empowers the male figures in control and robs women of their rights. What you fail to understand is that beleiving muslim women don’t wear the hijab because of their fathers/brothers/uncles or laws, they do so because God obligated it (Quran chapter 24 V. 31); and in cases where a woman does not believe, she must still abide by the laws of the country (as we do in the west). You may not realize that the verse just before it (Ch. 24. V. 30) obligates men to “cast down their glances and guard their private parts”….men too have restrictions on what parts of their body they can show!
    It furiates me when people ask, well why don’t men have to wear a hijab? The bottom line is…and bare with me here…men and women were not created equal. Men and women so obviously differ in their biology and psychology, so in Islam, their rights are not the same. That certainly does not mean that men are superior to women. Because women have rights over the men in their lives, just as the men have rights over the women. The rights are tailored to benifit each party equally.

    I understand that women are oppressed in some “Muslim” countries, but that is because the political/religious leaders have a distorted understanding of the religion, not because the religion itself is oppressive. So stop attacking the religion simlpy because you don’t agree with it’s teachings, and understand that a Muslim state is not necessarily lead by a true Muslim leader, one that not only knows the laws, but understands the wisdoms behind them….that my dear, is the real problem.

  15. says

    Books do not literally talk to people. When we read anything we get whatever we do out of it—it is a personal matter. But the minute the reader turns to someone and tells them what they understood from their reading, they are the ones relaying the information, not some divine source, not even the book, and they can be questioned and doubted without the questioner committing “heresy.” If the reader of that book, be it a scripture or anything else, claims to be relaying the voice of God, then the questioning becomes even more important. And if a large number of people repeat what someone claiming to be the voice or representative of God says, then the questioning becomes even more urgent and necessary.


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