In Kashmir, the hijab or the veil was enforced in the 1990s as part of the Islamo-fascist insurgency sprouting in every nook and corner of the Valley punctuated with bomb blasts, grenade attacks, shootouts between security forces and strike calls by secessionist leaders, with civilian killings and targeted assassinations. In the lull between violent incidents, terror groups called ‘tanzeems’ would issue diktats via the female terror organisation the Dukhtaran-e-Millat (Daughters of the Nation) and their supporting armed wings the Hizbul Mujaheddin or the JKLF (Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front). There would be pamphlets or press releases or simply a handwritten poster, pasted on mosque doors or electric poles asking women to cover up, close down beauty parlours and not wear jeans (a symbol of the Western world; very important to keep in mind when dealing with Western, white or brown feminists supporting wearing the hijab). The armed terror groups would go further to close down cinema halls, liquor shops and ethnically cleanse the Kashmiri Pandits, secular Muslims from the Valley who supported Kashmir’s 1947 accession with India.
In lieu of this, No Hijab Day counters the cruel and sadistic agenda of Islamists who declared 1st February as Hijab Day, marking the return of Khomeini, the ageing Iranian dictator from French exile, whose regime subsequently made it mandatory to wear the hijab and exercise purdah in Iran. This move was an insult to the memory of those who died for not wearing it. The brainchild of Nazma Khan, a Bangladeshi-American and resident of New York, it is ironic that she would choose to mark this day as the means “to foster religious tolerance and understanding” as her website says. No Hijab Day on 1st February of each year can be the day to observe and honour the past and current victims. It is an important day necessary to draw attention towards the repression in Muslim culture and in Islamic theology and how coercion, threats, and a deceptive global narrative are used to normalise the hijab among Muslims and to exhort non-Muslims to accept it as an undeniable symbol of Islam.
For those of us who eventually found their way out of the Intifada factory narrative of ‘Azadi’ or secession from India, we realised that the coercion of wearing the hijab was like the Nazi diktat of the 1930s for Jews to wear the ‘Star of David’ on their sleeves to distinguish them as Jews. Hijab is a modesty garment, symbolizing piety that enforcers of the hijab – the Muslim Brotherhood (Islamists with an agenda of a global Caliphate) — try to use to distinguish the ‘true Muslims’ and the ‘not-true-Muslims’ — a takfiri concept in Islam. Declaring another fellow Muslim as an apostate or blasphemer makes it easy for the Islamists to rally others under the cry of Islamophobia (a misnomer, it should be anti-Muslim bigotry or Muslimphobia which is very real) and ‘not-true-Muslims’ dangerous fascism.
So for the feminists, whether Western or Eastern, white or brown, here is some news — even if one single woman anywhere in the world is coerced into wearing it or slut shamed for not sporting the veil, it cannot be called a “choice”. Women in Iran in the 21st century are being sent to prison for protesting against it. Masih Alinejad’s movement “White Wednesdays” documents Iran’s “morality police” the mutaween, threatening women on the streets and escorting them to jail if found without the black chador or the scarf. Western feminists falling for the closet agenda, forget that toddlers, girls, 6-9-year-olds, and teens conditioned into the “piety” of the hijab, grow up to defend it and slut-shame those who refuse to cover up. Reformers and critics of modesty dressing are not against making a choice of “veiling” later in life once maturity sets in. In fact, if some progressive interpreters of the Hadith are to be read, ‘veiling’ is not just supposed to be of the head, but a mature adult after having lived life fully and wishing to withdraw from society can decide to adopt reclusive habits in order to lead a life of frugality and piety. No harm in that.
No Hijab Day is a day “to support brave women across the globe who want to be free from the hijab. Women who want to decide for themselves what to wear or what not to wear on their heads. Women who fight against either misogynist governments that will imprison them for removing their hijab or against abusive families and communities that will ostracize, abuse and even kill them,” says Yasmine Mohammed, a Canadian human rights activist, in her 2019 article, “Support Muslim women fight against hijab
“. She draws attention to the case of 16-year old Aqsa Parvez
, killed for not wearing the hijab.
That there is no theological injunction for wearing it doesn’t seem to dawn on the enforcers, and the ones supporting this practice. The Quran doesn’t explicitly state women to cover their heads, hair or face. All that has come down in these 14 centuries are commentaries and interpretations of general verses that recommend modesty, for men as well not just women. It is definitely not the will of God, but the will of male theological scholars and priests (mullahs) who use Islam as a political tool to expand its aggressive agenda of Islamism, by promoting its symbols. They end up fooling liberal apologists who suffer from the “white guilt” of their imperial and colonial past and rush to support regressive practices in cultures as part of the postmodernist trend and the understanding of cultural relativism.
Therefore this February 1st, make sure to support the human rights of billions of Muslim women who want to exercise their choice of clothing and practising their religiosity in their own way, or not practising it.
(Arshia Malik is a Delhi-based writer, blogger and social commentator.)
[Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs, and views expressed by various authors and forum participants on this website are personal.]