Macy’s sells hijabs; Linda Sarsour and Masih Alinejad debate the garment

In the article below, CNN reports on Macy’s (a department store’s) decision to sell fashionable hijabs. I don’t care whether they do or not, though it’s a bit incongruous (and oxymoronic) to talk of “modest, fashionable clothing.” As a veiled Muslim women, you’re not supposed to call attention to yourself, and a spiffy hijab (or makeup) will do just that, defeating the religious purpose of the veil—the “modesty” part. But Macy’s has a chance to cash in on Muslim women’s desire to look good, so why not?

Click on the screenshot to go to the piece.

What’s more interesting in this article is the debate it gives: a back-and-forth between Linda Sarsour, co-head of the Women’s March, professional victim, and rapaciously ambitious grifter, and Masih Alinejad, Iranian activist and founder of the admirable #MyStealthyFreedom campaign, which displays Iranian women illegally removing their hijabs.

I can’t quite make out what’s going on in the discussion, for it sounds as if Sarsour and Alinejad are talking past each other. Sarsour constantly wants to emphasize that her hijab is her personal choice, and she’s been the victim of “Islamophobia” for wearing it. In contrast, Alinejad calls attention back to the plight of women in Iran (and other countries) where veiling is not a choice.

Of course I’m biased in favor of Alinjad, and so my take may be colored by that, but it seems to me that Sarsour is, as she so often does, wallowing in her personal victimhood. In reality, Sarsour, while she may be vilified, is vilified more for her views on Islam, and her polarizing ideology—including favoring sharia law—than for being a Muslim.

That, at least, is what I get out of these exchanges, in which Sarsour reluctantly seems to decry oppression in the Middle East:

MA: I don’t see any Muslim communities in the West being loud and condemning compulsory hijab, especially you, when people of Iran are putting themselves in danger and risking their lives. I was loud enough to condemn both the burkini ban and travel ban, but I never saw the feminists in the West condemning compulsory hijab when they go to my country… They go to Iran and they obey it … All I see is double standards and hypocrisy.

LS: I will say on a personal level that I’ve been very vocal in support of Iranian women. For me, hijab is only a form of oppression when a government forces it on people, when a father forces it on his daughter or when a husband forces it on his wife. For me, as a woman who chooses to wear hijab, it is not a form of oppression and I will not be pushed into a position by anyone to say that hijab is a form of oppression.

Note Sarsour’s transition from saying that the hijab is often a form of oppression to asserting that she “will not say the hijab is a form of oppression.” That’s a movement from the personal to the general.

There’s this, too:

CNN: What are your thoughts on the current protests against compulsory hijab in Iran?

MA: Twenty-nine women who practiced civil disobedience, who peacefully took off their hijab, they are in prison. It’s a global issue and we should all condemn it. We shouldn’t let any feminists in the West downplay our cause and say this is a small issue, it’s not.

LS: Sister, I think I think the issue here is not whether or not we think it’s important … the issue is the narrative. In the United States, we as Muslim woman are attacked saying that we are upholding a system of oppression by wearing hijab. So we have a narrative we have to fight by saying we stand with women who choose not to wear hijab, and I will unequivocally say here that I stand with the brave courageous woman in Iran who are standing against compulsory hijab, but they also need us to create a narrative that says you also stand with my right as a Muslim woman in America who is having to endure Islamophobia.

Note that to Sarsour “the issue is the narrative,” not what counts as real and important oppression. Sarsour would rather maintain a “narrative” that gives lip service to the women in the countries of the Middle East (including the country of her parents’ origin, Palestine) but to always keep the narrative on Islamophobia, which of course Sarsour claims to be a victim of. That is what gives her credibility among feminists, even though Islam itself is one of the most anti-feminist ideologies I can think of.

There’s more, but I’ll add just one more exchange:

CNN: Why do you think hijab has become so politicized?

MA: I’m coming from a country where for four decades the Islamic Republic of Iran wrote its ideology message on our bodies. We won’t be able to get an education from the age of seven if we don’t wear it. We won’t be able to live in our own country.

LS: Hijab is solely a spiritual practice, but unfortunately there have been people who have taken it, including governments, to control women’s bodies. I hope we end this conversation by saying that you and I are actually a lot closer in what we believe that we think we are.

“Solely a spiritual practice”? I think Sarsour has it backwards. She wants it to be a spiritual practice, as that divorces the garment from its misogynistic origin, developed in post-Qur’anic Islamic theology. Every school of Islam, so far as I know, endorses the wearing of the hijab as a garment of modesty, so its wearing didn’t spread as a “spiritual practice.”

If wearing hijab was a “spiritual” practice by Muslims, then in the 1960s and 1970s, Muslim women in Iran, and Afghanistan would have been largely covered. But they weren’t, and protested when the theocracies made the hijab compulsory.  It has always been a “garment of modesty”, with some women choosing to abjure that modesty for choice and modernity. (Yes, I’ll admit that some Muslim women wear it not out of modesty considerations, but as a sign of their faith. But those motivations are deeply entwined.)

It is by wearing the hijab that Sarsour can claim victimhood. Yes, there have been cases in which bigots have ripped off hijabs or mocked their wearers to their faces. I find those actions shameful. Although that hasn’t happened to Sarsour, she claims the victimhood narrative of others, which she hopes to use as a crane to hoist her to Congress; and she’ll cry “Islamophobia” at every opportunity. Wearing the hijab is the best overt signal of your victimhood. In Iran it’s an unwanted one, but for Sarsour it’s a signal she embraces.



  1. Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Back when the City of Atlanta banned the wearing of pants falling off of kid’s asses, I suggested that such a legal process was unnecessary and wasteful (well, stupid, too). Instead, just have a number of 55-60 year olds adopt the fashion and walk around downtown for a week. That “fashion trend” would have ended within seconds.

    A similar “I am Spartacus” movement could be had by having Western men, gay people of all stripes, everyone Islam holds in low repute to start wearing Hijabs. In short order, the Mulahs would be berating their women for slavishly following Western decadent fashion and order them to stop wearing Hijabs.

    Ta dah!

    I have never quite understood why, if a display of woman’s hair is so erotic to Islamic men, that they don’t just have their women shave their heads. Maybe there is no money to be made selling Hijabs if you do that.

    • Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      I know you were probably joking, but I assume the reason they don’t shave heads is because they are ok with a women being attractive to her husband in the confines of their bedroom. No offense intended to the bald, of course.

      • Craw
        Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        It’s on her head but it’s his hair.

  2. Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I have a belated New Years resolution. Whenever someone uses the word “narrative”, I will divert my attention elsewhere. Except, of course, in cases like this one which draws attention to the vacuous nature of the word.

    • glen1davidson
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Interesting narrative.

      Glen Davidson

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      When people use the word “narrative” in the way Sarsour does, red flags should go up. The concept of narrative has been hijacked and co-opted by factually challenged postmodernists and I wish it could be reclaimed but it’s too late — why? Because in postmodern thought, narrative trumps fact. It’s my understanding that in narrative psychology, facts don’t matter. This is incorporated into the basic definition of narrative psychology and postmodernism is proudly declared to be the source of this BS; it’s ‘higher truths’ that they’re after — meaning ‘truths’ that comport with their particular narrative, facts be damned. I’ve been a victim of that damnable thought. It’s patently obvious here that Sarsour is in this camp. The facts, the indisputable reality and truth of what happens to women in Islamic countries (or families) that require hijab when they reject wearing it is of no moment to Sarsour. It’s all about her bloody narrative; and she has the temerity to chastise women in countries such as Iran who don’t support her. She is a deranged fool, and a dangerous one to boot.

    • Posted February 21, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      I hope you didn’t turn away too quickly to notice that when she used that word, Linda Sarsour hijacked Masih Alinejad’s point about Iranian women being oppressed and made it about herself and her problems in America.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Shame Gimbels isn’t around to go full burka.

    • Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink


      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        That joke’s strictly for us hommes et femmes d’un certain âge. 🙂

        • Craw
          Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

          Yes. Sadly I got it and laughed.

    • Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Or the Sears Catalog showing three levels of quality: Good, Better, and Best.

  4. glen1davidson
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    It’s the narrative of oppression that matters, not the oppression.

    Sarsour lives the narrative.

    Glen Davidson

    • Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      Sarsour: “I hope we end this conversation…”. This is what she really wants.

      She does want a narrative, only a solipsistic one.

      I see intolerant, injustice, and inequality when I see a hijab. I am absolutely certain Sarsour believes otherwise but is unwilling to consider other perspectives. I believe it’s important that Sarsour be able to share her opinion, but I think it’s more important that any woman can choose for herself what the hijab means. This is something Sarsour does not agree.

  5. Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I get the impression there’s *another* “religious purpose” to hijab, etc. – namely, announcing “I’m a Muslim!”

    • nicky
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      In the ‘West’ most certainly. And an added: “hence I’m better than you”.

      • Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        “… better than you”
        IMO. This may apply to LS but is not strictly
        true, most have no choice even in the west.
        Why? partly to keep their marriages and family intact, so they comply, let alone the oppressive nature of obey your misogynistic masters bearing down on them.
        No doubt there may even be a certain amount of group, tribalism behaviour going on reinforcing it.
        But this is well off the post.

        • nicky
          Posted February 21, 2018 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

          Fair enough, that is in all probability happening. I was thinking more of the Ms Sarsour types.

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    … rapaciously ambitious grifter …

    That kinda insult is par for the course for a loose cannon like me — but you, Jerry? 🙂

  7. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    This debate reminds me of this cartoon

  8. Craw
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    There are no laws against hijabs, only against veils. We must not let Sar sour conflate these, as she is doing

    • ploubere
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      Good point.

  9. Andrew Fredriksen
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps by eroticizing the hijab – making it high fashion and a symbol of seduction and allure — the Islamic guardians of modesty and chastity will ban it .

  10. ladyatheist
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    “If wearing hijab was a “spiritual” practice by Muslims, then in the 1960s and 1970s, Muslim women in Iran, and Afghanistan would have been largely covered.”

    Meanwhile, in the United States, women wore headscarfs to protect their coifs or just for fashion!

    • ladyatheist
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Whoops! I thought only YouTube did this. Sorry for the image! I only shared the link.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 22, 2018 at 12:32 am | Permalink

      The comme il faut head-covering for women in the ethnic enclave where my paternal grandparents lived was the babushka — but that had nothing to do with religion, everything to do with covering the curlers in one’s hair when one had to go to market. 🙂

  11. Curtis
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    I think WEIT misses the best quote in the CNN article when Alinejad says “It’s important if you care about human rights, women’s rights, you cannot use the same tool which is the most visible symbol of oppression in the Middle East and say that this is a sign of resistance [in the United States].”

    • ploubere
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink


  12. ploubere
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t seen Sarsour showing any concern for Iranian women, or Saudi or Pakistani or Afghani women. Her statements seem gratuitous and self-serving, when she is called on her BS.

    It’s hard to look at the history of the hijab and claim its purpose isn’t an accessory to keeping women as men’s property. It’s impossible to honestly argue that that is not women’s position in many Muslim-majority countries.

  13. Cate Plys
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Masih Alinejad completely destroys Sarsour’s hypocrisy toward the end of the exchange though, especially with this, after Sarsour claims the issue isn’t whether Western feminists think it’s important to protest enforced hijab, it’s the narrative:

    Alinejad answers, “It’s important if you care about human rights, women’s rights, you cannot use the same tool which is the most visible symbol of oppression in the Middle East and say that this is a sign of resistance (in the United States).”

    That’s a perfect way to phrase it. And then when Sarsour complains that women in the US “risk wearing hijab,” Alinejad comes right back at her with “We get lashes, we get fined, we go to prison…How many countries in the world do you know that if you wear hijab you will be beaten up by morality police?”

    If Alinejad had an organization to fight the normalization of modesty culture, I would most certainly contribute.

  14. darrelle
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Sarsour’s arguments and claims don’t make sense unless you assume that she is ignorant or that she is engaged in propaganda with the goal of increasing her fame and fortunes. Despite what she has said is this debate her behavior is not consistent with someone who supports oppressed women in Islamic societies like Iran. Actually, her behavior towards many outspoken Muslims and or ex-Muslims who have experienced orders of magnitude more abuse than Sarsour, administered by their own Islamic society, has been despicable.

    Sarsour’s linking of the Hijab to her claimed fight against Islamophobia is bogus. Promoting Hijab has no obvious, unique benefits in fighting Islamophobia, let alone promoting Hijab by misrepresenting it as egregiously as she does. She could fight against Islamophobia just as effectively without mentioning Hijab at all.

    Her misrepresentation of Hijab is callous and selfish. At best her characterization of Hijab is what she would like it to be rather than what it actually is. However, I call bullshit on that. The evidence of her behavior does not support that she is making an honest, well meant but inaccurate, mistake with this. It looks very much as if she is selfishly throwing the large majority of Muslim women, those who live places like Iran, under the bus for her own personal gain. Even if you give her the benefit of the doubt on this and assume that her primary purpose is to better the plight of Hijab wearing Muslim women in Western countries like the US, what does it say about her that she is willing to throw the majority that suffer orders of magnitude more under the bus in favor of the small minority?

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink


    • nicky
      Posted February 21, 2018 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      Despicable, callous, selfish .. sounds accurate to me.
      And indeed, there is no honest mistake, honesty and Linda Sarsour mix like oil and water (Saudi Oil, I suspect).

  15. DrBrydon
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    It seems that for Sarsour it is more important that some people in the West object to women wearing the hijab, than that all women in Iran are forced to. I dont think she recignizes the larger problem.

  16. BJ
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    “Sister, I think I think the issue here is not whether or not we think it’s important … the issue is the narrative.”

    I never thought I’d see someone like Sarsour admit this in a media piece meant for public consumption.

  17. rickflick
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed reading your analysis of Sarsour’s argument strategy. When you listen to her in the heat of a debate you can miss that she’s always shifting the meaning and focus of the issue at hand. The analysis shows that she starts with a comment that sound plausible, but then reinterprets what she’s just said to mean something different. It’s sly and dishonest.

  18. eric
    Posted February 21, 2018 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Sarsour sounds so clueless.

    “Twenty-nine women are in jail in Iran for going without it. That needs to change.”
    “But I’m being called mean names for wearing it in the US! Don’t you agree both things need to change?”

    it’s a bit incongruous (and oxymoronic) to talk of “modest, fashionable clothing.” As a veiled Muslim women, you’re not supposed to call attention to yourself, and a spiffy hijab (or makeup) will do just that

    For the record, the idea that any woman would be asked, pressured, or forced to pick personal clothing that “doesn’t call attention” to themselves is horrible.

    Having said that, if this is really a market women are asking for, it seems to me that it should be possible to thread this needle. Its often the case (at least around me) that women pick up on subtleties of each others’ clothing that men (well, I) completely miss. So, it’s probably possible and may not even be too hard for designers to create hijabs that other women appreciate, but whose beauty (as clothing) is utterly missed by men.

  19. Jake Sevins
    Posted February 22, 2018 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    I was actually surprised and *pleased* to see Sarsour state that she supports the Iran protests. I hadn’t seen anything from her before now stating that she does, and I feared that she might denigrate the protesters or characterize them as “not understanding the hijab” or somesuch. It’s heartening to see her say she supports them.

    The next logical step would be for her to travel to Iran and remove her hijab and voice her support. That one act would do more to advance women’s rights than anything else she’s done to date. I wonder when it will happen?

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