As a cultural awareness activity

Maajid Nawaz pointed to an article about

Ohio school students asked to “cover” for a day in “solidarity” with “Muslims”. Thankfully cancelled. Where do I even begin?

The article, in the Washington Post, explains the idea:

A public high school in Mason, Ohio, has apologized for an event called the “Covered For a Day” that encouraged all girls to wear a hijab — a head scarf worn by Islamic women — as a cultural awareness activity.

The event was supposed to take place at the 830-student, high-performing school on Thursday, but has been canceled. It was sponsored by the Mason High School Muslim Student Association…

I have an idea. How about the Mason High School Haredi Student Association encourages all boys to refuse to sit next to girls in the cafeteria, as a cultural awareness activity?

How about the Mason High School Christian Student Association encourages all students to stage protests in science class demanding equal time for god, as a cultural awareness activity? How about all the school bullies encourage all students to take a beating in silence, as a cultural awareness activity?

Or, how about not?

Maajid elaborated on his view in a comment:

As a liberal, I disagree with the notion of women believing they must wear a hijab to be “good Muslims”, or “more pious”, or that it makes them somehow morally better in God’s eyes [compared] to women who do not wear it, and I disagree with promoting the hijab. However, also as a liberal I will defend the legal right of women to wear it, because dress is a personal matter, and have done so many times on TV (despite the same women failing to defend others’ rights to wear cartoons on their t-shirts) yet I maintain my legal and moral right to continue to speak out against this practice. This is because, there are still countries that enforce hijab on women as a matter of law, Saudi and Iran being two cases in point. There are also many more in which dressing “immodestly” is liable to male moral judgement (Pakistan, Egypt and many other developing countries), where sexual violence has sky-rocketed based on presumptions of female “immodest behaviour”. Finally, there are many dissenting Muslims and ex-Muslims who are persecuted for daring to be different the world over. The neo-orientalist assumption that “Muslim women” wear hijab, when so many Muslim women actually do not, must also be challenged. If it is not, it increases the peer pressure to conform to medieval-inspired dress codes. Until such practices are ended, I think that a “take your Hijab off” day would be more appropriate, and even then I would not propose it because it would place hijabi women on the spot, whose rights I also defend.


  1. RJW says

    I’m not sure why students in a secular school system need to ‘show solidarity’ with a totalitarian misogynistic religious culture. If the school’s admin really wanted to increase the students’ ‘cultural awareness’ they would have encouraged the male students and teachers to wear the burka. Other ideas to raise cultural awareness could be, a public stoning to death, they could burn a local church, trash a museum, or murder a cartoonist.

    File under ‘useful idiots’.

  2. quixote says

    I don’t know the back story on this event but it could be that in we-know-nothing-nothing-about-other-countries Ohio, the idea behind this was some form of “put yourself in their shoes.”

    I mean that they weren’t suggesting the women try out a religious observance, they were suggesting wearing hijabs so the (female) students could see how others in Ohio treat hijabis. (Not sure why empathy isn’t equally important for boys.)

    Somehow they managed to forget that this thing isn’t just a scarf. It’s a coercive religious observance and they shouldn’t be stamping it with official approval. Tolerance, yes. Approval, no.

    Sadly, I’d be willing to bet the farm that it was cancelled not because it insults women. Probably it’s because ZOMG! Muslims!

  3. says

    Actually, the idea has possibilities. Call it Sharia Day, and the girls must wear hijabs, and the boys can’t sit next to them, and all food must be halal, and a whole bunch of other rules could be observed (perhaps floggings for anyone caught using irreverent language?), and at the end of the day everyone would be heartily glad they don’t have to live like that, and sympathetic towards the victims of regimes like Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.

    (OK, it’s a terrible idea: likely to succeed mostly in reinforcing prejudice against Muslims).

  4. Deepak Shetty says

    Of all the things they could have chosen to spread cultural awareness (food, music literature) this is what they came up with?
    These assholes don’t even know their own culture

  5. johnthedrunkard says

    What if they’d ‘suggested’ that all the Muslim BOYS wear the hijab for a day?

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