If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know of my frequent and splenetic posts about “The first hijabi [Muslim wearer of the hijab, or headscarf] to do Y,” where Y represents various forms of athletics, ballet, contestants in beauty pageants, news anchors and so on (see, for instance, here, here, here, and here). This ridiculous glorification of a scrap of cloth is found among many Western white feminists, most vocally among the privileged white editors of The Huffington Post. And you’ll know my objection to this glorification. While I agree that women shouldn’t be banned from wearing hijabs, or reviled because of them, I don’t think they should be celebrated for wearing them, either. My reasons are several.
First, the hijab is a garment of modesty, worn by many Muslim women to protect their hair from the prying eyes of men. The assumption here is that if a man glimpses a woman’s hair, he’ll turn into an uncontrollable bag of testosterone and possibly attack the immodest woman. This idea that men must be prevented at all costs from seeing bits of women, and that women are responsible for snuffing this incipient lust, reaches its apogee in the burqa, which, worn with a face covering, turns the woman into a shapeless sack of cloth.
Further, some hijabis are engaged in activities incommensurate with the religious reason for wearing the cloth. Look at this hijabi, for instance, a Cover Girl Ambassador celebrated by PuffHo as a “fearless dreamer”. I may be wrong, but I don’t think she’s trying to hide her beauty, since her makeup must have been laid on with a trowel.
And the loud acclaim for the hijab- and burquini -(full body bathing costume) wearing contestant in the Miss Minnesota pageant? What is that about? How does parading your assets on stage comport with modesty?
Futher, what about celebrating non-hijabi Muslim women who have achieved good things? Well, that doesn’t often happen, even when the press knows about it. No, it’s the religious headscarf that’s being celebrated, not the Islamic breakthrough women who, bravely, refuse to hide their faces and hair. This leads me to believe that many of those celebrating the hijab are actually applauding their own perceived open-mindedness, by supporting Women of Color. But why does the celebration vanish when the Woman of Color doesn’t wear a scrap of cloth on her head? Because the hijab stands for Islam; and that is is not to be celebrated. In fact, no religion should be celebrated, since the vast majority of them are based on fairy tales, wish-thinking and engage in various forms of oppression based on warped views of what the deity wants. Islam is one of the worst, what with its mandates to kill infidels and apostates, and its demonization of gays and pervasive misogyny. Why on earth should we applaud such a faith?
Finally, we must remember that in many places in the world the hijab is required, and in many others might as well be because of familial and social pressures to conform to religious dictates. That’s even true in the U.S., where in some Muslim schools girls as young as 5 are forced to wear the hijab. What kind of “choice” is that? At the very least, I think, those women who do wear hijab without any social pressure to do so should speak out against the fate of their sisters in Afghanistan and Iran, who have no such choices.
All this I’ve said before, but Jeff Tayler says it better, more eloquently, and with more data in a new article in the upcoming website Quillette: “The hijab and the regressive left’s absurd campaign to betray freethinking women“. Tayler used to write antitheistic pieces for Salon, but no longer (I suspect they didn’t want more God-bashing on their site!). Fortunately, Quillette has taken on the contributing editor of the Atlantic, where I look forward to some good old religion-bashing in the future.
Jeff gives some of the same examples I cite above, and more as well, and then sets out the problem:
Headlines proclaiming such “firsts” — performed by Muslim women living, nota bene, in the United States and Canada — have appeared often in the press over the past couple of years. Surely by now you’ve seen them. The associated coverage is frequently gushing, but when it is not, it is not probing, and certainly not critical. It is, in fact, part and parcel of the regressive left’s insidious attempt at brainwashing well-meaning liberals into lauding what should be, in our increasingly diverse societies, at best a neutral fact: freedom of speech means freedom of religion. Women should be free to dress as they please. Some Muslim women wear hijabs and are the first to do so in various endeavors.
By no means does freedom of religion, however, confer on religion or religious customs exemptions from criticism, satire, or even derision.
. . .Hence, few spectacles are more puzzling, disturbing, hypocritical, and potentially damaging to women’s rights — and therefore to human progress as a whole — than the de facto campaign in some purportedly liberal press outlets to normalize the hijab and portray it as a hallmark of feminist pride and dignity, and not as a sartorial artifact of a misogynistic, seventh-century ideology, forced upon its wearers by law in some countries and by hidebound cultural norms and community and familial pressure, even violence, elsewhere.
And the consequences, limned by Tayler’s dry wit:
The Huffington Post also apprised us of the case of the fourteen-year-old Stephanie Kurlow, an Australian who converted to Islam at age ten, and her hopes of being the first hijabi ballerina. Young Kurlow tried to crowd-fund her dance school tuition, but eventually, Swedish tennis legend Björn Borg (who professed to be “really moved” by her story) stepped in, and his organization offered to foot the bill. Upon learning this, Kurlow declared that she sought to “bring the world together by becoming the very first hijab-wearing ballerina” and wanted to “encourage everyone to join together no matter what faith, race or colour” and thereby “leave [sic] in a world with greater acceptance.”
How Kurlow intends to “bring everyone together” by espousing a faith mandating everlasting hellfire for non-Muslims — still the majority of humans on this planet — and death for apostates and gays, is anyone’s guess. Nevertheless, Bjorg’s marketing director swooned over her. “The strength and the courage that it takes for [a] 14-year-old to not give up in a situation like this, to see possibilities where others see problems, is exceptional.” (Italics mine.)
Noor Tagouri is a hijabi news anchor who appeared (clothed, of course) in Playboy. And she’s said some bizarre things. Tayler again:
The headline for the Huffington Post article about her states, without intimations of satire, that “Noor Tagouri Makes a Forceful Case for Modesty.” Again, by appearing in Playboy.
(Google Tagouri and you will find quite a few photos showcasing boldly — that is,immodestly — her model-level looks on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. You will also come across a saccharine Hollywood Life piece about her career, which leaves readers no doubt about how she has leveraged her faith to make a name for herself.)
The Huffington Post also publishes, without commentary but with typos, Tagouri’s assertion that she believes “in rebellion as a form of honestly [sic] . . . . To be our most authentic self is to rebellious [sic].” Wait – to be one’s most “authentic self” as a twenty-first-century American woman means adopting a 1,400-year-old religion that demand wives submit to their husbands (even abusive husbands), sets outinegalitarian inheritance rights for women, permits taking captive women as sex slaves, and even sanctions the savage butchery that is female genital mutilation? No one at the Huffington Post thought to ask her such impertinent questions.
Finally, on the Miss Minnesota beauty pageant contestant, Halmia Aden (she didn’t win):
Most recently, Halima Aden, a nineteen-year-old Somali-American teen from Minnesota, won attention for a two-for-one: for being, again according to the Huffington Post (notice a pattern?), the “first ever contestant . . . to wear a hijab and a burkini” in, of all things, the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. A tweet reproduced shows a video of Aden, thus attired, swinging her hips – modestly? – as “contestant number one” on the catwalk in the swimsuit competition. Emblazoned above her Huffington Post accolade in hot pink letters is PAVING THE WAY.
One wonders, paving the way to what? to the dawn of Islamic theocracy in Minneapolis? To the shaming of non-hijabi Muslim women across the land? To the shaming of uncovered nonbelieving women in general? A hijab- and burkini-bound beauty contestant “paves the way” to nowhere I would want to go. And hey, aren’t beauty pageants something to which we progressives should object? In any case, a shame-based retrograde view of the female body (as nothing but a provoker of male lust) forms the core of modesty dress codes, be they Islamic, Christian, or Jewish. Such codes implicitly brand the women who choose not to comply as impious sluts inferior to the Righteous Ones strutting about in their ostentatiously self-segregating getup.
There’s a lot more, so go read Tayler’s piece. The solution? In my view here’s what we should be doing:
- Stop celebrating Muslims unless they achieve something in the face of discrimination. They’re a religion, not a race, and their religion is often vile, even when held by Western Muslims.
- Hold Muslims accountable for their beliefs. Before osculating those beliefs, ascertain what they are: see if they think apostates should be killed, gays demonized, and women oppressed. See if they endorse a literal reading of the Qur’an. If they do, ask them about the horrible bits of the Qur’an (and hadith) that, for many Muslims around the world, promote bigotry, oppression, and immorality.
- Ask hijabis why they’re wearing the garment, and if they had a choice to do so. If they say they did, but they wear glamorous clothes and makeup, ask if they really are trying to be modest. Then ask if they think veiling should be mandatory in some Middle Eastern countries.
- If a hijabi says she wears the garment for modesty, ask her why women and not men are responsible for curbing the lusts of men.
- Stop celebrating women who achieve something while wearing the hijab by concentrating on the hijab. By all means celebrate Muslims for overcoming obstacles (see point 1), but not for wearing a headscarf. That’s like celebrating an achieving Jewish male who wears a yarmulke for wearing the yarmulke. Remember, in the U.S. per capita rates of hate crimes are still twice as high against Jews as against Muslims. Why don’t we see “first American yarmulkabi bobsledder in the Olympics” articles? What about the Sikhs? “Paving the Way: First turbani in the Mr. Universe Contest”.
It’s time for this nonsense to stop. But it won’t so long as PuffHo and other regressive leftists thoughtlessly worship a symbol of women’s oppression.