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Hijab is Sexist and Degrading

After thinking about this for a long time, I have come to terms with the idea that hijab is sexist and degrading. In fact, it should have died a well-deserved death in the 20th century, along with other forms of dehumanising objectification. Hijab and the subjugation that it symbolises is rooted in the male domination of some societies that see women as as little more than the personification of lust and conduits of its relief. This indoctrination runs so deep, that women themselves internalise it and become proud of this debasing relegation to male subservience. Woman is made to feel ashamed of her natural self, and instead strives for a certain ideal- an ideal in which she is not appreciated for her person, her mind, her thoughts, but for being a source of pleasure for man, and this is the real tragedy – that she is happy to win this prize, and strives to be acknowledged for it.
My admiration belongs to this group of women, who lead by example and have won their liberation:





The above is a slightly modified Facebook note I wrote almost two years ago. Having looked back on it, the subject feels worn, as does the sarcasm. Back then, there was more “public debate” about the hijab/burka/whatever, what it means for women, and it’s place in society. However, two years on, my views on this matter have not changed, and I don’t imagine they ever will.

I was inspired to blog this by International Women’s Day 2011, which was a week ago. The subject of women and their role in society is clearly a crucial one, and it seemed that we should have some sort of discussion on the topic.

I plan to write two more posts on the topic of Iraqi women, the next one about the general situation (political and otherwise) of women in Iraq, and the following one more specific to the individual, and British Iraqi females in particular.

15 Comments on “Hijab is Sexist and Degrading”

  1. JAbass March 15, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    I’m glad there are undertones of sarcasm in this.

    The topic of hijab is not one that I’m sure men can fully understand. They can realise the values, but they won’t really ever understand what it feels like for us to wear it and how we feel when people argue and debate about us and our choices. I find it fascinating when men in society become the voice of muhajibaat either telling us we’re oppressed or that we’re free. It’s a subject that really requires women to stand up and discuss, but where are they? Maybe its their absence that leads the men to come forward.

    • Makarand Fulz September 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

      I have dedicated one entire book to this aim. My angle is of course medical . It renders gender division useless, here is the post,
      ’Scientists have somehow missed definitions of gender in human beings,” states Dr. Makarand Fulzele. Insights gained from years of practice as surgeon makes him wonder if indeed we have overlooked facts staring in our face. Nature has a tendency to hide many secrets but at the same time it provides enough clues to unravel its mysteries. Dr. Fulzele picks up loose threads from life to stitch together the theory that man is an extension of woman in his new book, “Man Is the Extension of Woman: Know the Ultimate Truth about Yourself” (published by iUniverse). Dr. Fulzele’s book explores similarities between men and women against the backdrop of their genetic differences, physical variations, and emotional and intellectual dissimilarities. Dr. Fulzele who is a successful surgeon further explains in his book: The main hypothesis I discuss in this book is that, if a woman lives long enough she will be converted into a man physically. A similar thing can also be stated about man. It is wrong to categorize humankind into two genders as it implicates that they are extremely dissimilar and physically opposite to each other. I try to prove that man and woman are just two different stages of one developmental process. And physically they are very similar. The ideas presented may sound unconventional but Dr. Fulzele implores readers to consider his point of view with an open mind. “Your world will not change if you do not agree with me. But if you agree with me, how does it change your world? If more people agree with you and me, how does it change our world? The possibilities are limitless.” About the Author Dr. Makarand Fulzele is a successful surgeon and medical superintendent of a government hospital in Mumbai. He enjoys tapping into hidden and mysterious regions of the human mind, where many strange thoughts occur and get ignored. He is also the author of “Rainbow,” a book similarly dedicated to the spirit of light.

  2. Tuga March 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    While I agree with the above comment, that women are the ones that need to stand up and discuss this topic, the issue of women – whether social or political, is one that should not be confined to discussions between women, where there are weaknesses and injustices the society as a whole is required to take part in these discussions to come to an understanding.

    Mohammed, I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on this topic.

  3. JAbass March 16, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    I completely agree with you Tuga. Society as a whole is involved where there’s injustice. However, with the issue of hijab, the media is littered with arguments for and against hijab, but most of these arguments are by men whether they’re athiest, or even Muslims scholars. I would just love to see more women who wear hijab stand up and say ‘this is who I am because…’ and obtain the recognition they deserve. I’m not a feminist, but I just think women need to voice their opinions more in our communities and not be held back by whatever fears they may have.

    • Tuga March 16, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

      I agree

    • Rooney September 12, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

      Actually, if you believe that men are equal to women, and women have every right to voice their opinions as men do…. that makes you a feminist. That’s the very basic definition of being a feminist. Why insist on saying you’re not? Do you prefer to believe you are inferior because you’re female?

  4. Mohammed Abdullah March 17, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    You’re right, of course, about not knowing what it feels like to wear hijab. This is a point that I’m acutely aware of when writing about this topic and other female-related issues.

    Moreover, I want to be clear that I’m not actually advocating hijab in this post. If you ignore the references to it, the above can easily apply to the pageant shown in video. To say what I think of it would be to repeat what I wrote without the intended sarcasm. Whether it applies to hijab also, is another matter, but these kinds of pageants- for teen girls and even younger- are so ingrained into some cultures that they hardly seems to solicit a reaction, especially from men. How often do you see a young or middle-aged Western male rage about the sexism of 30 attractive stripped-down teen-age girls standing for display like it was Crufts or something? Yet a woman putting a cloth over her head is an industry unto itself.

    This is not a religious issue, more a cultural one, and I think the rejection of this kind of thing is something we got right in our culture. Not every consequence of liberalism has been positive, and some times it’s regressive under a different guise (this being an example). And by “got right”, I don’t mean in any objective sense, since I think this is a subjective issue with no right or wrong answer.

  5. LionOfBabylone March 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

    Some would say that bikini girls would not be accepted in our societies but western societies claim to be advocates of personal freedom and still don’t accept Hijab.

    Yes, western societies are advocates of personal freedom but they have also given the freedom of speech to anybody who wants to express himself. And anti-Hijab advocates have made use of this freedom.

    We don’t however see pro-Hijab advocates making use of this freedom. Just like everybody above said, we don’t see women standing up for their right to wear Hijab. Those who don’t want to wear Hijab have.

    What Hijabists do is labeling those who don’t wear it or did so and stopped as infidels and “out of the Islamic Umma”. Well instead of doing so, just explain why you wear Hijab and make use of the freedom granted to create a public understanding of it without misconceptions and labeling.

    Efforts should be made to make others understand why it is worn just like it is the right of other not to wear it and express why they don’t.

  6. MN April 17, 2011 at 1:24 am #

    Maybe because to some women who dont wear hijab answering a westerner about hijab is a hard thing to do.

    What is the best answer? in all honesty I still dont have one convincing enough to them.

  7. MN April 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    who do wear the hijabi *

  8. NA January 24, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Is it not ironic that this whole website is dominated by 4-5 iraqi MEN writing about Iraq?? The least you could have done is to make an effort to bring women’s opinions when you write about Hijab or I dare say…..let a woman write about it :0

    • Ali Al-Saffar January 24, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

      Dear NA,
      You raise a good point. And I can assure you that it is not because we have designed it that way! We have had female contributors here in the past, unfortunately, all have left because of other commitments that mean they cannot contribute as regularly as we would like. Needless to say, if you feel strongly about this, or another issue, you are welcome to write a post for us to publish. We have a ”write for us” section now (https://britishiraqiforum.wordpress.com/contact-us/).

  9. ي س February 2, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    I think you ought to be kidding yourself if you think that a male from this era is any different from one of a thousand years ago. Be real with yourself. You will be attracted to women who you find attractive. Do not argue with something that is so obvious.

    The only logical explanation I have for you writing this is that you have some hope that a non-hijabi will send you an e-mail, which will escalate to you having your mushroom tip sucked on.

    Or you’re gay.

  10. Kate Ruddle September 19, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    I agree that it seems sexist. Muslims are not alone in asking/expecting women to cover their heads. For example, some Orthodox Jews use head coverings – both men and women. The problem, for me, is that the head covering is viewed differently for men and women – men wear it at certain times as an acknowledgment of God being above them, whereas women wear it for “modesty.” This explanation of the significance of yarmulke is straight from the Jewish Outreach Institute’s website, btw. I personally see no issue with wearing a garment as an expression of faith, in the way an Orthodox Jewish man may wear a yarmulke. However, being told that based on one’s gender one must alter their appearance, not as a sign of faith but simply to be acceptable to be seen, is where the sexism comes in. I recently watched a video of an Egyptian cleric refusing to speak to or look at a female reporter unless she put on a hijab. Women are literally being told that they must cover up to not ” provoke” men and if a man has lustful thoughts while looking at the woman it is the woman who has sinned. This is effectively demonizing women’s sexuality as the root of all lust – male and female- and thus implying that women are inherently sinful/ dangerous and must be controlled. People sometimes say that wearing a hijab makes men respectful of women, but I see it as an embodiment of objectification – women are viewed so entirely based on sexuality that the only way for society to function is if we cover them all up. It’s a short step from that to saying wouldn’t things run smoother if women just stayed home, since they are so overwhelmingly sexual and inspire such sin when seen?

  11. Rob June 13, 2015 at 6:14 am #

    That’s culture and tradition for you.

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