The veil is yet another restriction on women

I’ve been meaning to comment on a recent article in the Guardian (surprise, surprise) about how wonderfully liberating the hijab is and am glad I was reminded of it today.

The author, Nadiya Takolia, says:

…in a society where a woman’s value seems focused on her sexual charms, some wear it explicitly as a feminist statement asserting an alternative mode of female empowerment. Politics, not religion, is the motivator here. I am one of these women…

…In a world as diverse and changing as our own, the hijab means a multitude of things to the many women who choose to wear it. I speak as a woman who just happens to come from the Islamic faith, and for me the hijab is political, feminist and empowering. This dimension is increasingly important for many women who choose to wear it; it’s a shame it is understood by so few.

It’s ironic how hijabis often portray their wearing of the hijab as a form of liberation from the sexualisation of women in society when it is just one other form of sexualisation and control. In fact, it sexualises girls from a young age and demands that they be covered and segregated so as not to cause fitna or chaos in society.

In the real world, this isn’t called liberating or empowering. It’s called something else and it’s far from a choice for a majority. It’s no more a ‘choice’ than other forms of control and sexualisation, such as female genital mutilation or the chastity belt and foot binding.

Rahila Gupta has recently written a piece in Open Democracy on this very issue. It’s called The hijab or the bikini: The shaping of young girls’ sexuality.

In it she says:

By calling for a ban on lingerie and beauty pageants for young girls, the French report shifts responsibility from parents to the corporate sector which, to some extent, disguises the fact that the state is challenging parental hegemony. Additionally, it shifts the public debate and opens up a space to call for the banning of hijabs worn by young girls which also draws attention to girls’ sexuality, conversely by covering them up. Both sets of girls are robbed of the freedom and innocence (i.e. not being constructed as objects of desire) of childhood. Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson for Council for Ex-Muslims is forthright in her condemnation of the imposition of hijabs on young girls, ‘child veiling must be banned full stop. This is a children’s rights issue. While adults may ‘choose’ veiling or a religion, children by their very nature cannot make such choices; what they do is really what their parents tell them to do…. They [parents] can’t deny their children medical assistance or beat and neglect them or marry them off at 9 because it’s part of their beliefs or religion.’  This is an important perspective in the debate on veiling which is often missing in the West out of ‘respect’ for other cultures and religions.

As an aside, whilst Rahila  supports a ban on child veiling, she opposes my demand for a ban on the burka. I have commented on this by saying:

It is not enough to say that a burka ban is ‘counter-productive and seen as an onslaught on Muslims’. This can be said about any position regarding Islam and Islamism. One can say the same about those opposing child veiling and sharia law and its discrimination against Muslim women and so on. Firstly, it disregards the reality that Islamism and its rule target Muslims first and foremost. Also I believe women’s rights campaigners cannot evade their responsibilities. Yes there is racism that we must confront but as Rahila has herself said many times, we cannot ignore the enemy within because we live in a racist society. The burka has real negative implications for women and their rights and lives. As we do on all other issues, we can bring an opposition that is different from Sarkozy’s position or that of the racist ruling elite just as we bring a different perspective against Sharia law from the racist far-Right that targets Muslims and immigrants.

(Guardian link via Asad Abbas)

Hoodie and hijab are not the same

A few days ago, Adele Wilde-Blavatsky wrote ‘To Be Anti-Racist Is To Be Feminist: The Hoodie and the Hijab Are Not Equals‘ on The Feminist Wire. In response, 77 feminists wrote an open letter accusing Adele of racism and Islamophobia (surprise, surprise). Both Adele’s original article and the open letter are no longer available on The Feminist Wire (but can be found via the links above) due to an ‘appeal to legal action’.

In support of Adele, we sent in the following statement that was published on

We extend our full solidarity to Adele Wilde-Blavatsky for such a clear and rare analysis from feminists in Europe and North America, in which women’s resistance to the Muslim Right -including by resisting all forms of fundamentalist veiling – is made visible and honoured, rather than sacrificed on the altar of anti racism and anti imperialism’.

* Marieme Helie Lucas, sociologist, Algeria, founder and former international coordinator of the international solidarity network Women Living Under Muslim Laws ( wluml), coordinator Secularism Is A Women’s Issue
* Fatou Sow, Researcher, Senegal, international coordinator, Women Living Under Muslim Laws
* Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All and Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Iran/UK
* Karima Bennoune, Professor of Law, Rutgers University, U S A
* Khawar Mumtaz, Shirkat Gah, Pakistan

Of course a lot more can and must be said on this important matter and we all plan to write more in the coming days but we wanted to get something out quickly in support of Adele hence the brief statement above.

You’re welcome to register your support in the comments section below since The Feminist Wire has shut down any discussion on the matter.

Meredith Tax of Centre for Secular Spaces has already written something on this. She says:

…Clearly this is meant to end the discussion. Why discuss anything with someone who is racism incarnate – as is shown by her “questioning of women’s choice to wear the niqab.”

Are all women who question this choice racist by definition? What about women in Iran who risk jail for being “mal- hijab?” What about Muslim women in Nigeria who want to wear their traditional head-wraps rather than the burquas being pushed by Saudi-financed mullahs? Do these women have agency? Or do women have agency only when they wear the veil?

Feminists should be encouraging discussion of such questions rather than trying to shut it down.

Khawar Mumtaz writes:

In the US, I am told, an “authentic” Muslim woman is the one who is in some form of hijab or veil. The rest, I suppose, are fakes or pretenders. Talk about stereo-typing! And coming from feminists is alarming.

Alarming indeed.

Hejab helps vaccinate the disease that is women

Here’s another must-see sign.

It says: ‘The veil is protection’.

The word in Persian which I have translated into ‘protection’ and which has been helpfully translated on the sign itself as ‘security’ is actually used to describe immunisations.

Basically, we women are diseases that need to be immunised with a nice big black veil that  covers us up and keeps us out of sight and mind.

30 years of Islamic rule in Iran and they still need signs like this to try and keep women in their places.

Dream on…




The hijab feels hot but hell is hotter!

The HijabiBengaliSisters have made a video called ‘I Hate the Hijab!’ where they respond to reasons given for not wearing the veil. Of course they go out of their way to say that their aim is not to put pressure on unveiled ‘sisters’ but they merely want to help Muslim (and non-Muslim) women dress more modestly. They only want the best for us – that we go to heaven, insh’allah. [Read more…]

I say burn the veil

The wonderful atheist Egyptian blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy has called on men to veil in solidarity with women. Men in Iran have done this before as well [see featured photo – man’s T-shirt says: down with patriarchy].

The veil’s oppressive; it’s a form of control. Rather than having men wear it too, we need to get rid of it. [Read more…]

Anyone looking for a job?

The women’s basij group (the Islamic regime of Iran’s paramilitary militia) has trained 52,000 ‘experts’ to ‘promote chastity and veiling’ in the society. Maybe some of those ‘progressives’ who so love the hejab can join the women’s basij as they are also looking to create an Institute for chastity and veiling and a group of scholars and experts on – you guessed it – chastity and veiling. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]