To us,( Asra Q. Nomani ) the “hijab”is a symbol of an interpretation of Islam we reject that believes that women are a sexual distraction to men, who are weak, and thus must not be tempted by the sight of our hair. We don’t buy it. This ideology promotes a social attitude that absolves men of sexually harassing women and puts the onus on the victim to protect herself by covering up.
The new Muslim Reform Movement, a global network of leaders, advocating for human rights, peace and secular governance, supports the right of Muslim women to wear – or not wear – the headscarf.
Unfortunately, the idea of “hijab” as a mandatory headscarf is promulgated by naïve efforts such as “World Hijab Day,” started in 2013 by Nazma Khan, the Bangladeshi American owner of a Brooklyn-based headscarf company, andAhlul Bayt, a Shia-proselytizing TV station, that the University of Calgary, in southwest Canada, promotes as a resource for its participation in “World Hijab Day.” The TV station argues that wearing a “hijab” is necessary for women to avoid “unwanted attention.” World Hijab Day, Ahlul Bayt and the University of Calgary didn’t respond to requests for comment.
In its “resources,” Ahluly Bayt includes a link to the notion that “the woman is awrah,” or forbidden, an idea that leads to the confinement, subordination, silencing and subjugation of women’s voices and presence in public society. It also includes an article, “The top 10 excuses of Muslim women who don’t wear hijab and their obvious weaknesses,” with the argument, “Get on the train of repentance, my sister, before it passes by your station.”
The rush to cover women’s hair has reached a fever pitch with ultraconservative Muslim websites and organizations pushing this interpretation, such as VirtualMosque.com and Al-Islam.org, which even published a feature, “Hijab Jokes,” mocking Muslim women who don’t cover their hair “Islamically.”
Last week, high school girls at Vernon Hills High School, outside Chicago, wore headscarves for an activity, “Walk a Mile in Her Hijab,” sponsored by the school’s conservative Muslim Students Association. It disturbed us to see the image of the girls in scarves.
Furthermore, Muslim special-interest groups are feeding articles about “Muslim women in hijab” under siege. Staff members at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has pressed legal and PR complaints against U.S. companies that have barred employees from wearing hijabs on the job, has even called their organization “the hijab legal defense fund.”
Today, in the 21st century, most mosques around the world, including in the United States, deny us, as Muslim women, our Islamic right to pray without a headscarf, discriminating against us by refusing us entry if we don’t cover our hair. Like the Catholic Church after the Vatican II reforms of 1965 removed a requirement that women enter churches with heads covers, mosques should become headscarf-optional, if they truly want to make their places of worship “women-friendly.”