The Hijab and the Confederate Flag: A Fair Comparison?
(DISCLAIMER: I am quite sure that there is no shortage of people whose heads will explode at the very title of this post, with screams of “Islamophobia”. On the other hand, crimes committed in the name of religion have been swept under the rug for way too long, under the guise of political correctness. Which is we the allegations of Islamophobia do not particularly bother me, as I’ve already explained.)
I’ve talked before about the Islamic tradition of wearing the Hijab (literally, “cover”). In Muslim majority countries, the looks of Hijab vary considerably, depending on the local culture. In countries where Muslims are not the majority, though, all the different varieties have one thing in common, which is to separate more observant Muslims from the rest of society, Muslim or not.
Often, those who “voluntarily” wear the Hijab in the Western societies claim it is their own free choice (except when they go off script and admit it really isn’t, after all). This argument, however, makes no mention of a simple reality: that while these individuals are so proud of exercising their rights, they are not particularly concerned with the rights of millions of their own fellow Muslims women who, by virtue of NOT living in the western world, do not have much of a choice in such matters. In fact, it is hard to imagine such women not having heard of the brutal “morality police” (short for “promotion of virtue and prevention of vice” squads) enforcing Islamic rules on women’s dress codes in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Or, for that matter, misogynistic yet hilarious claims by Islamic clergy blaming women who are “not modest enough” for earthquakes.
And of course, it is by no means rare to hear in such countries that women failing to wear the Hijab are inviting rape.
Curiously enough, while such people are proud of their “right” to wear the Hijab, many of them lack some other basic rights; hence, it is not the rights of others that they simply ignore, but sometimes their own. Kunwar Khuldune Shahid, whom I’ve quoted before, hilariously exposes this paradox:
Thank you, dear Muslimaat [Muslim women], for saving the rest of the world’s time by clarifying that you’re fine living in the 7th century AD, and no one should push you towards the enlightened times, regardless of whether they have clothes on or not. Thank you for being a source of inspiration and an illuminating example for everyone. We all know that you have what it takes to transform the plight of the women and change the dynamics of the world, as long as you are back home before sunset.
So with all the claims of “voluntary” use of the Hijab, assuming they are true and not made under any kind of duress (say, for fear of everlasting punishment in case of failure to wear it in the afterlife), a question comes up: Is the public display of a symbol of oppression, protected as it may be as free expression, to be met with no criticism? If they are exercising their rights by wearing the Hijab, how about the rights of those who believe they are being a front for (often state-sanctioned) brutality?
It may make matters clearer by bringing up an example: people mostly (but not exclusively) in the Southern US states “proudly” displaying the Confederate Battle Flag-or what passes as such.
Despite the predictably negative reactions from many in the politically correct camp, the parallels are hard to miss. We are talking about two systems, both justifying bigotry (one racist, the other sexist) in the name of religion; both motivated (to various degrees) by economic and sexual exploitation; and both depending on lies (the Civil War was about “states’ rights”, not slavery, just as the Hijab is all about dignity and safety for women). Further, those who display the Confederate Flag often whine about being viewed as racists, while those who wear the Hijab complain about being viewed as followers of a form of Islam often associated with terrorism. And I have the same response for both groups: My heart bleeds for you. Not.
So to go back to the question in the title of this post: I do believe it is a fair comparison, but only to a point. Because the Hijab is worse, as it happens. After all, there are countless women speaking in favor of the Hijab. But in a rally like the one in the picture above, it is hard to find a black face.