Sorry, But You Can Keep Your Hijab

A Muslim student, left, helps Sarah Pooley, 14, of Albuquerque, try on the traditional head covering known as a hijab on the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. UNM students took part in "World Hijab Day" on Wednesday, an event created in 2013 in reaction to Muslim women being harassed for wearing the head covering used by some women who practice Islam. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

Oh give me an actual break.

The President of Austria has called for all women to wear headscarves in solidarity with Muslims to fight “rampant Islamophobia”…

…“It is every woman’s right to always dress how she wants, that is my opinion on the matter,” he told an audience of school pupils.

“And it is not only Muslim women, all women can wear a headscarf, and if this real and rampant Islamaphobia continues, there will come a day where we must ask all women to wear a headscarf – all – out of solidarity to those who do it for religious reasons.”

Let me, in solidarity with my feminist sisters, adopt their tone and just ask: why is it always a man trying to tell the sisterhood what they need to be doing to show solidarity with other women? Let’s put aside for a minute the absolute truth that in the Muslim tradition, covering a woman’s hair and neck isn’t intended to protect the woman or highlight their accomplishments apart from how they look (as one pupil suggested to President Alexander Van der Bellen), but is rather to PROTECT MUSLIM MEN FROM THE TEMPTATION OF WOMAN by covering her sexy self up.

Instead, let’s focus on how incredibly asinine it is for Western women to show solidarity with someone who is, by their cultural definition, oppressed (even if they choose their covering, they are choosing a garment of oppression. Prove me wrong) by adopting the mode of their oppression.

Let me put it a very dramatic way, and forgive the clunkiness of the comparison. It’s a bit unfair, but I’m trying to make a point here: if I know a woman is being physically abused by a man, I’m not going to ask a male friend to punch me in the face so I, too, can sport bruises in solidarity with my sister being harmed. Instead, I will help her by hopefully reasoning with her that she doesn’t have to live that way by being an example of a different way of life. I’ll also possibly provide her access to resources in hopes that she might cultivate a different path.

Now, as mentioned, that’s an extreme example. A Hijab is a religious garment to Muslims, and a cherished one by many Muslim women, and I’m truly not trying to be disrespectful. But women in the West tend to not to agree that our hair and necks (or faces and bodies) are shameful and should be covered so that the men in our culture can control themselves. We expect more of our men, in fact.

So asking Western women to cover themselves is asking them to take part in something they view, culturally, as oppressive. Which might actually be why I don’t support the ban on those garments either, because that seems just as oppressive in the opposite direction.

If these ladies want to cover themselves, that is their choice. And if Western women want to let their hair and faces be free, that is their choice. And if they want to show solidarity with Muslim women by wearing a hijab, that is also their choice. Choice is a democratic ideal we embrace in the West. But telling women they MUST go against their culture or they are somehow contributing to Islamophobia (read: are bad, maybe racist, people)?

Sounds like a lot of patriarchy to me.