Arab News

The Hijabophobia


In recent years the term Islamophobia has been frequently used in discourse and in different contexts. Phobia is an extreme and irrational fear of, or aversion to, something without there being a realistic foundation for such fear. The word Islamophobia was coined because of the extremism and violence some Islamic groups adopted while abandoning the ethos of good manners and uprightness that Islam has enjoined. These groups helped spread this phobia by terrorizing people who may not be fully aware of or familiar with the reality of this beautiful religion.

If we follow all of the things happening around the world we would realize that Islamophobia has become chronic. It is developing according to certain plans that aim to make Westerners fear everything related to Islam. Things have gone further and we see hijabophobia rampant not only in the West but also in the East.

The entire world has been very busy discussing the issue of the hijab, which has joined the other fabricated problems relating to Muslims. Instead of trying to deal with things rationally, we only like to exaggerate them and try solving them by exchanging accusations. Some “enlightened” people in the West recently discovered that the hijab is a religious symbol and, according to them, is contrary to the notion of secularism. Some have also accused it of being a mark of separation and so call for it to be abandoned.

The anti-hijab campaign has reached the East and is widespread especially in Islamic countries. Many people in the Middle East are insisting on participating in this haphazard movement, which was created by the West.

The West is capable of embracing and advocating all freedoms except the freedom of Muslims. The freedoms that the West acknowledges include women’s rights — the freedom for them to choose their lifestyles, where they work and what they wear as long as these freedoms are unrelated to Islamic beliefs.

It has been said that what a woman wears does not necessarily represent her character or personality and that religion is to do with the heart, not the outfit.

If we would like to agree with this statement, then we would find that the statement itself goes against the position of those people that oppose Muslim women who wear the hijab. Muslim women are constantly accused of being ignorant and illiterate if they stick to their religious principles, including the hijab. Once a woman decides to take it off, all of a sudden she becomes modern and civilized.

I have been receiving many heart-breaking e-mails and painful pictures about the suffering of women in many Eastern and Western countries who have been targeted by the anti-hijab lobby.

However, I have always strongly felt that each country is entitled to deal with the issue according to its rules and therefore it is unwise to intervene. Yet, my position changed when I began reading some of the statements made on the issue in Arabic media. Unfortunately, it seems that we have ventured away from dialogue into the abyss of religious persecution.

For a country to allow or stop women from wearing the hijab is an internal thing. The citizens of that country have every right to voice their concerns against their governments. As for the West’s habit of finding excuses and justifications for their anti-hijab policies, citing the happenings in Arab and Muslim countries is a huge fallacy that forces us to think and respond.

For instance, according to the State Information Service, which is Egypt’s official media and public relations organization since 1954, Huda Sharawi was the first Egyptian woman to remove her niqab, or face veil, in 1921. The inference drawn from this is that the niqab was widespread before 1921. Hence it is rather illogical when the anti-hijab lobby claims that the niqab is an export from “certain” Arab countries and is alien to the life and way of Egyptian women and Muslim women living in the West. These people are in fact blaming other Arab countries when in fact they are being dishonest to history and heritage.

It is so obvious that the West is the original source of anti-hijab and anti-niqab campaigns. It is unfortunate that some Middle Eastern people are so excited about these campaigns that they have adopted the same methodologies and concepts.

What is astonishing is that some people’s enthusiasm in the East to participate in these campaigns has actually urged them to fight the hijab and not niqab. This is in spite of the fact that Muslim scholars are unanimous in their opinion that the hijab (headscarf) is an obligation on every Muslim woman.

Hijab is not a call for hiding or withdrawing — it is a piece of attire that one adopts in obedience to Allah’s commands. Women are able to wear the hijab and engage themselves in public life successfully.