Eiynah decries the glorification of hijabs in NOW magazine

As far as I know, Toronto’s “counterculture” NOW Magazine has been pretty much like PuffHo: celebrating the hijab and other Islamic coverings as signs of both diversity and courage (e.g., here). But of course they are mostly signs of religious oppression—of a modesty imposed on many women against their will. Even in Western countries, I tend to doubt many of those who say they wear the hijab “by choice”.

Canadian writer, artist, and ex-Muslim Eiynah, also known on her website as “Nice Mangos,” has bucked the NOW tide with a new piece in that magazine called “Liberal Muslims face an uphill battle.” Besides detailing the threats received by ex-Muslims like her and Ali Rizvi, she pushes back, properly, against the liberal trend to glorify the garments of Muslim oppression. An excerpt:

During last year’s federal election and the controversy surrounding Stephen Harper’s veil ban, Tabatha Southey of the Globe and Mail tweeted“By fighting a veil ban, Ms. Ishaq schools us on how to be Canadian” with very little regard for what the face veil represents to many other Muslim women – like those who are forced into veils and are fighting to be free of them. Around the same time, The Huffington Post Canada declared, “someone made a ‘Niqabs of Canada’ Tumblr and it’s Great, comparing them to hockey masks, helmets, scarves and hoods shielding from the cold – all of which have other purposes than to shame women into modesty.

The Guardian touts headlines like “My hijab has nothing to do with oppression, it’s a feminist statement” with seemingly no appreciation for what kinds of strict modesty guidelines lay behind the wearing of hijabs. Yes, some women in the west have the privilege of choice, but many, many of the women wearing face veils or headscarves in the Muslim world do not have such a choice, especially when it is mandated by the state. Even in the west, there lies the threat of being shunned by your family if you reject religious dress code. Articles glorifying this are doing women in vulnerable positions no favours at all. Yes, we must oppose anti-Muslim bigotry, but we must keep in mind that this doesn’t mean glorification of modesty codes that target women.

My social media feeds are inundated with well-meaning liberal friends sharing article upon article praisingcelebratingglorifying religious garments like the hijab/niqab. But it’s a garment used exclusively in its original form to ensure women cover up lest they provoke the lust of men. Ironically, even Playboy has jumped on this trend. The Muslim girls who want to be ballerinas, athletes or models and aren’t hijabis simply aren’t given very much coverage. All this achieves, is that it synonymizes Muslim with “conservative Muslim,” which is incredibly unhelpful to our community in this political climate.

As someone who immigrated to Canada from Saudi Arabia, who was forced by morality police to cover her hair, threatened with a cane, I cannot stomach the fetishization and praise surrounding these practices that are primarily used to control and hold women back.

Here’s one of Eiynah’s cartoons, “Naughty Niqabis”—a recurring feature on her website and Twi**er feed:



  1. VRandom
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree. Hijab is a sexist and anti-woman garment.

    Even in the west, there lies the threat of being shunned by your family if you reject religious dress code.

    Let’s also not forget the threat of eternal damnation and torture. We know they are imaginary but for many Muslim women that is what they believe in. How is wearing Hijab a choice if doing otherwise gets you tortured forever according to your beliefs?

  2. Posted October 25, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love Eiynah. I’ve listened to all her podcasts, and read all her blogs, and while I don’t agree with everything she says, she’s had some criticism of Sam Harris I didn’t agree with, I so far at least, respect everything I’ve heard from her.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted October 25, 2016 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

      Pretty much what I think. I have huge respect for Eiynah.

  3. Jenny Haniver
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    This is by far the most cogent, concise, and impassioned statement concerning the matter of covering and the liberal championing of covering, and its consequences that I’ve read. In the West, hijab, etc. have become avant-garde fashion statements tricked out in the guise of feminist “liberation” and cultural/religious authenticity; as if this were no more than the cultural equivalent of wearing dreadlocks.

  4. Posted October 25, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic article.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Another terrific piece by Ms. Mangos. Eiynah has become the best, most clear-thinking and articulate, public voice on these matters.

    And for this, she is rewarded with a steady barrage of death and rape threats, as are the filmmakers, authors, and other Muslim-reformist activists she discusses in her article. I hate — hate with the heat of the Arabian desert sun — that anyone would seek through threats of violence (or worse, through violence itself) to silence another from simply speaking her mind.

  6. Ken Pidcock
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Yes, we must oppose anti-Muslim bigotry, but we must keep in mind that this doesn’t mean glorification of modesty codes that target women.

    It’s depressing how few of us realize this.

  7. keith cook +/-
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Do whatever the hell you like as long as it is not forced on you, harming others, assuming they are not beating you, other creatures, assuming it’s not trying to eat you or you are not harming yourself, assuming you are attempting to jump off something very high.
    Normalizing the hijab is something akin to the Catholic Church trying to be nice in rhetoric but still maintaining a misogynistic rear guard action on abortion, condoms (anti family planning, pro aids stance) anti LGBT rights, as in and of, Islam which adds, the right to criticize and that includes peoples of the west because that is anti Muslim.
    In short, there are no rights, no choice, no freedom of speech or action…

    the Goon Show
    Wait a minute. How does the Eiffel Tower make you famous?

    I fell off it, heh-heh.

    No man has ever fallen off the Eiffel Tower and lived.

    You call this living?

    Only during the mating season.

    Neddy Seagoon knew what is was all about.
    A piece of cloth, wrapped around a head hiding not just hair, neck,
    and modesty be damned!
    but a life of freedom, the right to choose for yourself to be yourself, without oppression or retribution.

  8. Claudia Baker
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Love Eiynah and admire her for her bravery. It’s sad that that even needs to be said in 2016, in North America. That she is “brave” in speaking her mind. That we have to worry about being called “racist” if we oppose the hijab. Or, in her case, risk real threats of rape and even death! Amy W. would say: “What kind of fuckery is this?”

    This just happened today in Ottawa, Ontario:
    I went to the hairdresser for a haircut. My hairdresser is from Syria. He has been in Canada for over 20 years and he has been my hairdresser all this time. Incidentally, he is Christian, not Muslim.

    In September of this year, his sister, brother-in-law and two nephews emigrated here from Syria, via Lebanon. They had to leave Mons when their house was bombed to oblivion. They have been waiting for their papers for over a year in Lebanon,and finally, last month they arrived in Ottawa.

    All is well, they are settling in and they are very happy to be living in peace and freedom.

    The boys are enrolled in high school. One of them is in a class with 3 other “Arab” boys, (as my hairdresser related to me). These boys told him that it’s horrible that the girls in the school with them are not covered up, that it’s disgusting, and that it shouldn’t be allowed. (!!

    When the teen told his mother about this, she arranged a meeting with the principal, and invited my friend the hairdresser along as interpreter. She expressed her displeasure and wanted the principal to speak to the boys involved, which he promised to do. He apparently said: “I don’t want this kind of thing in my school.”

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I find it distressing.

    In the meantime, I am knitting them all warm socks, as they are already freaking out about how cold it is here. They ain’t seen nothing yet! It’s not unusual for the temperature to dip below -25C in winter.

    • Lars
      Posted October 26, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      Were the boys objecting to the way that the girls dressed born and raised here, do you know?
      We have a lot of Muslim students in our Engineering faculty. One of the lab coordinators told me of a male Muslim student in one of his labs who kicked up a fuss about the way the female students were dressed – “like whores” was the way he expressed it. Apparently this kid was born and raised here. I don’t know how typical this is – not very, I hope.

      • somer
        Posted October 26, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        Speaking for myself, this is what Im sick of though we can handle it so long as its a small percentage of the population and not set to constantly grow. The UK with 4.5% already has a pushy population, which was badly treated in the past but now expects Pakistani norms as ex muslim sites, Godless spellchecker and Maajid and others indicate very day. I said elsewhere – that its illiberal to force people not to wear religious clothing (unless of course, it actually interferes with their job, like a niqab in a retail job). But I really do think Muslim culture is more resistant to liberal values, as well as inclined to blame the West for everything than any other cultures and there are reasons for that going back to the 7th and 9th centuries. In the case of Europe (as opposed to places with a smaller percentage of Muslims/ or where without visa control they would have hundreds of thousands each year and its been going on since first half of 90s from Afghanistan) countries have to be careful they are not forced into ever more concessions if they take in more and more. However it seems that Europe is slowing now – they are taking some but don’t accept they should be forced to eventually become more like the places they are assisting. Seems to me most Muslims at least from rural areas are very anti Western liberalism and anti Jewish to start with and this is only fuelled when they come to the West by regressive left discourse that everything bad in the world is ultimately reducible to the West and capitalism and no one else has ever been or is greedy or exploitative or violent.

        James Bloodworth, Jamie Palmer, Nick Cohen are very interesting on this. Of course we have a duty to take some but not to destroy ourselves. Yalda Hakim – who once worked for Australia’s multicultural channel SBS, then Al Jazeera and now BBC – has written an article very critical of multiculturalism gone wrong in parts of Sweden. Sweden has reduced the number its taking from a high base
        The UN wants the West to take 65 million refugees – 1/2 of them from Somalia Syria and Afghanistan and Iraq – and about 87% are Muslims displaced by the extremism of the religion, and 3% are Rohingyas displaced by bigotry from other religions – not Western bigotry.

  9. Claudia Baker
    Posted October 25, 2016 at 7:08 pm | Permalink


  10. Posted October 25, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    when I see a woman in Canada covered like that, it takes everything I have to not grab her and take her to a deprogramming or women’s shelter. That is not modesty, that is utter submission and worse, it gives their western clothed men to treat other women outside of their culture extremely poorly and I am DONE with being told I’m racism when confronted with such disgusting sexism.

  11. somer
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    Eiynah is wonderful. Asra Nomani, Einyah and articles on Sedaa – Our Voice (ex Muslims in UK)explain that the culture of family honour – centred on female chasteness and compliance to husband and male relatives – is all encompassing in Muslim households even – outside Muslim countries. This, combined with indoctrination by scriptural teaching, ritual (4.30 am prayers that girls must start at 7) robs girls of agency – first to be able to see outside her world, secondly to be able to see past the indoctrination of heaven and hell and selfishness defined as non compliance and thirdly to escape severe physical, psychological and economic consequences for non compliance.

    Muslims outside the family can see how a girl behaves and whats considered un-islamic brings shame on the family and even threats of violence or business consequences. So the girl has the responsibility of acting in ways that do not harm the family – plus the family and kin network is empowered to punish the girl.
    For example in Syaafi Islamic lawbook (Guidance of the Traveller) an individual muslim is expected to act to show disapproval or even physically try to stop or reprove another Sunni Muslim who is not acting in accordance with their faith – so a Hanbali should be pressured to behave like a hanbali etc. Within Islam people act in kin networks. Cousin marriage is common and women are subdued by the oppressive emphasis on utter compliance to male extended households – the desert heritage of emphasis on aggressive tribal allegiances maintained by patriarchal lineage purity and obedience to authority figures.

    The woman is not supposed to offend her mahatma or go out without the approval of her Mahram (relatives and inlaws other than cousins and second cousins). It is forbidden for a man or woman to marry/have sexual relations with these as per Quran 4:22-23. There are more mahatma on the husband’s side of the family than wife. Marriage to Cousin and second cousin is Explicitly allowed because they are NOT Mahram; even the Syaafi and Hanbali schools recognise this though they say it is “disliked” whereas the other schools emphasise it is allowed, with no reservations (e.g. https://islamqa.info/en/114163; wikipedia on cousin marriage)
    Marriage is often arranged back in Pakistan

    Salim Mansur of Canada wrote in 2004
    “The majority of Muslims have continued to live in a traditional world of politics where tribal instincts of clan solidarity prevail and politics is predominantly a calculus of honour-shame that binds one clan, one tribe, one nation against another. In tribal politics the individual is inconsequential; and the highest regard is placed for maintaining the collective reputation of the tribe in respect to other tribes.”
    The introduction to Pakistan: A hard country by Anatol Lieven also reveals the same thing.

    • somer
      Posted October 26, 2016 at 4:51 am | Permalink

      Autocorrect again!
      “There are more mahatma on the husband’s side of the family than wife.”
      should be
      “There are more mahram on the husband’s side of the family than the wife’s.”

      • Lars
        Posted October 26, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

        I was wondering how Gandhi had slipped in there.

    • eric
      Posted October 26, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      Muslims outside the family can see how a girl behaves and whats considered un-islamic brings shame on the family and even threats of violence or business consequences. So the girl has the responsibility of acting in ways that do not harm the family – plus the family and kin network is empowered to punish the girl.

      In earlier generations here in the west it brought shame on a household if you married the wrong race. Or if you came out as gay. Heck, I expect in a few cases families have been torn apart over who to vote for.

      This sort of social and cultural pressure makes it really tough on the ‘rebeller’. It creates an incredibly high cost for them to be who they want to be. So I think its important to be sympathetic to those who choose to ‘stay in the closet’, rather than getting holier than thou about it (not that you did that; I’m making a general point). They’re in a tough spot, and their life-priorities may not include our priority of reducing bigotry. I also think heavy-handed laws restricting backwards cultural mores probably aren’t going to fix it. Such laws don’t teach tolerance and freedom, they teach cultural conservatives that “western values” means whomever gets in charge gets to impose their will on everyone else. This last point obviously has limits; yes we do want to save child lives by ensuring they get good medical care, even if its against the parents’ religious beliefs. But that’s an extreme case, and I think in most cases cultural beliefs are sort of like bad speech; the best way to fight them is not banning but rather countering with good speech, good culture. Assuring the victims that, if and when they choose to come out of the closet, abandon their hijab, marry inter-race or what have you, liberal society will support them even if their family withdraws all support and shuns them.

      • somer
        Posted October 26, 2016 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        I agree – I didn’t mean to suggest banning garb or forcing western norms. Rather I intended – perhaps wasn’t clear enough in spelling out – that the apparent support for the hijab and other covering garb even when the person advocating may be a Muslim woman who believes in its supposed benefits – comes from a place of brainwashing underscored by threatening honour culture – a type of honour that is obsessed with controlling women. This is definitely not to say westerners should be trying to force women to remove this gear or anything – but rather to counter the politically correct westerners or Muslim apologists who come up with arguments about the supposed empowering or spiritually rewarding nature of the garb.

  12. GBJames
    Posted October 26, 2016 at 7:04 am | Permalink


  13. somer
    Posted October 27, 2016 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Just now on Sarah Haider twitter a posting from Christoph Michel dated 22 October that says:

    During an all Muslim beauty pageant in the Indonesian capital earlier this year, the contestants were asked who they thought was to blame for the brutal gang rape of 14-year-old Yuyun.

    In May, Yuyun had allegedly been raped and murdered by more than a dozen boys and men as she walked home from a school in Sumatra.

    According to Ms Wahid, who was one of the beauty pageant judges, the contestants all blamed the victim.

    “Because they made a distinction between a woman who is raped when she is covered and when she’s not covered.” She said

    The beauty contestants all wore headscarves and agreed the young girl was not a victim, but had been raped because of what she was wearing.

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