Tuesday, July 17, 2007



Last night I was driving home, and I saw two figures sitting on the corner, dressed from head to toe in black. All I could see were their eyes reflecting the beam of my car. Most people would be alarmed to see the pair, but not me…Oh no I was raised in Dubai, the land of repression and oppression….(they forget to use those words in the documentaries…)….women dressed from head to toe in black, is perfectly normal.

I hate the Hijab (or Burqa.) I really do. It always struck me as terribly hypocritical the way the men in Dubai, in 100 degrees Celsius, wear white loose fitting dresses and the women wear black, from head to toe.

We women like to think that Feminism is a done deal. We forget that a few of us out there aren’t allowed to leave the house unaccompanied, to drive a car, to wear the clothes we chose, and most of all we forget that a growing number of us are forced to wear a black shroud in public, so as not to tempt other men. HMPH!

Tempt Who? You?

Underneath the black shroud, the women were as beautified as any on earth and also as vain. I always found it a little amusing to see a Muslim woman in a beauty parlor spend three hours painting her nails, getting a wax, blow drying her hair and applying henna to her hands, only to walk out in their black shroud.

I have a few friends who are Hijab wearers. They say that the Hijab gives them freedom, from the intrusive eyes of men. They say that the Hijab is a symbol of commitment and faithfulness to their religion, God and family. They say that I couldn’t possibly understand, it is their choice, their values.

They are right, I don’t get it.

Very few women who have enjoyed a lifetime of freedom from the Hijab would chose it willingly. Infact I would guess that if Halle Berry showed up tomorrow, covered in head to toe in black, we would wonder if she had lost her mind.

In my opinion the current practise of Islam, which tells women that they need to be dressed in a shroud, is not based on Islamic text. I will repeat that again, ‘The current practise of Islam is not based on the Koran.’ It is not based on history. The current practice of Islam, in the Middle East, is an interpretation of religion by a few choice families who discovered that their lands were rich with oil. It is a mechanism of control, similar to the American propagation of debt amongst its citizens.

I do not purport to tell anyone how to practice their religion, who you believe in is your business. How you believe in it is another matter. If your belief involves the subjugation of some part of humanity, well as a human, I am interested.

The Hijab is the silliest most oppressive symbol on earth. And we women should be fighting it, fighting it because we know better. If all those years ago, women of the feminist movement had said, “Oh since we have been raised as precious flowers, and it is part of our value system not to vote….well let’s just respect tradition…..” where would we be today?

We who know better, have an obligation to stand against such insanity.

As Elie Wiesel reminds us, “Let us not be indifferent”

17 comments:

Miz JJ said...

I had a professor in university say it is interesting how people will use religion, or culture as excuses to oppress people. If anything the hijab only heightens sexuality in my view. Everything becomes about sex and sexuality. Women must be constantly on guard from men. It also places ZERO responsibility on men. Instead of them behaving like evolved human beings we need to make sure they are never tempted because if they were they would not be able to control themselves. Whatever to that.

All those women out there who refuse to call themsevles feminists are deluded. Who exactly do you think it was who went out there and fought so you could go to school, go to university, not be called sweetie, darling, or be touched inappropriately by men in the workplace, who fought not be fired if they got pregnant, who fought so if your husband raped you he could be charged (a law that was only changed in the 80's in Canada). So go ahead and don't be a feminist, but don't think for one minute you would be where you were without women fighting for their rights. Feminism is not a dirty word.

Adrian said...

don't see much of those by my side of the world..

I am all about oogling girls so hajibs wouldnt fly too well in my book.

Jdid said...

actually my biggest suprise in dubai was that everyone didnt wear the hijab

also I always found it really funny that every mall had these expensive looking lingerie and girly stores

Colonise This! said...

Interesting to read your position on hijab (used in its broadest sense). You raised so many issues ...

Sometimes I wonder if part of the large opposition to hijab in the west is not in fact tied to our acceptance of a quite anti-feminist/sexist/male patriarchal notion, that a woman’s body must be on display and available for the male gaze 24/7.

To me what is at stake though, is not whether we like or don't like the hijab, but whether we support a woman’s right to choose to wear whatever the hell she wants to, whenever the hell she wants to, however the hell she wants to, for whatever reason she wants to, whether we like it or not.

It is not absolutely clear to me whether Muslim women who wear the hijab, feel forced into wearing the hijab or not, so far all most of us have is anecdotal reports which vary widely depending on who we talk to or reading.

The pertinent point though is that if Muslim women feel forced into wearing the hijab it is their responsibility to create mass mobilisation from within their communities to change this. This is what people who feel oppressed do sooner or later, often at great cost but sometimes with great success.

If this mass mobilisation occurs then Muslim women should be supported by everyone who says they respect a women’s freedom of choice. Conversely, for western feminists or anyone else for that matter to impose their world view on Muslim women is positively … well colonial and absolutely no better than the religion or men or culture or whatever else that may or may not be oppressing them.

Please tell me that Elie Wiesel did not use that quote in relation to Hijab, please tell me he was either using it in relation to the position of women within Jewish Orthodoxy or more importantly regarding Western support of Israeli decimation of Palestine and its people.

The OE said...

I'm going off on a tangent, but unfortunately your blog community won't get to read this tangent because it's been classified as Top Secret. Which, in a strange way, is the burqa equivalent for information security.

Jumbie said...

I have always seen women's choices as being their own. From abortion to clothing. Granted, some wish to weat the jiljab, niqab, hijab etc, but even those who express their wishes are influenced by the men in their households. Not that everyone is, mind you. But to have an 11 year old or 16 year old (recent legal case in the UK) tell you this is her choice seems to me a bit whispy. They haven't even been exposed to an alternative to make a decision for themselves.

You should see the women in the UK who come from Middle Eastern countries and experience some freedom. From the tightest jeans and miniest of skirts to the latest in sexy undies, to smoking and drinking to excess, some do go at it with a fervour I can't believe.

These may be the exception, but I know I see quite a lot which tells me that wearing the shroud is not always a personal or first choice.

Crankyputz said...

OE: Perhaps I will be lucky enough to recieved above mentioned 'classified tangent' through various back door channels...tangents are always interesting.

Colonise this: Unfortunatly I can't (as far as I know) cause a mass revolution in the Middle East. Would love to, but really I am not the fatigue's type...I can offer an opinion on a blog...which may or may not be taken to heart by some.

The premise that not wearing the HIjab causes men to oogle is simply wrong. Wearing lycra inspired dresses that stop just bellow your bottom, well that could inspire oogles. Just being born with a bigger bum, well that might cause oogles. Hiding it all beneath a black shroud, well that's not the rational answer....

The way I see it is by professing my intense dislike of the Hijab I am 'supporting a Muslim women's right to choose." The Hijab, which only offers itself, & does not support that right.

Now that I think about it, Ill even extend this dislike to the little outfit the nuns wear....

Crankyputz said...

Am I the only one a bit bothered by the woman in the picture's stretch marks??

Jumbie said...

Nah, they bother me to. Too muh of a gentleman to say so though. :-))

Eddo said...

Excellent post CP... and some great comments from your readers as well.

GC (God's Child) said...

do you also think nuns should not wear a habit?

jay bee said...

you. are. brilliant. this was excellent. are you sure you wrote it?

lol

all jokes aside: i once considered conversion to islam. the hijab intrigued me. i wanted to be free of exactly what your friends describe: "the intrusive eyes of men".

and then a friend of mine, a very good, very devout muslim boy said to me more or less what you said. "the current practice of islam is not based on the koran," and sat me down for a few hours each week and schooled me on some serious religious ish.

i no longer have the desire to convert (i was doing it for all the wrong reasons, and he showed me that). i am curious about why women wear hijab, how they really feel about wearing it. so many muslims in my area, and a mosque not mere kilometres from where i live...

again... i loved this post! good on ya!

Abeni said...

Not sure if I understand but is there a penalty for not wearing?

Crankyputz said...

Albeni, In saudi arabia, the most exterme example of islamic law, it is legal for a mere stranger to whip a woman, should she be exposing any part of her body, even her wrist. I have personally had friends and family that have experienced such stupidity.

In other Islamic countries, only the Arab women are forced to cover up. There really is no choice to not cover up, if that is what your family/husband wishes....

Gooders Girl said...

It should be a choice...but the fight for that choice has to come from them....they start fighting I'll start supporting.

In London I lived in Muslim community and an old guy spat at me and tried to hit with his cane... apparently I looked like an East African muslim gone bad?!

Now I hear you but femake circumsicion is my issue.

inciquay said...

I kinda dig the secrecy of it and I can totally get down with wearing the most expensive gear imaginable underneath for only my girlfriends and man to see in private but I think that'd get old with me real fast.

gela said...

Very interesting post, can see you feel strongly about this. My only issue would be if the women wearing it have a choice.