Hijab-Freedom or Oppression?

Contributor II

    Feminists and high-end fashion have made hijabs and other Islamic coverings more or less normal in America. There's a good chance you will see a Muslim when you walk down the street in a large city. But for many women in other countries they can be either forced or forbidden to wear certain veils. But before we get into the debate on whether hijab is freedom or oppression, let's answer the question, what is hijab? Hijab is it necessarily a head scarf or Islamic veil, although that is typically what many interpret the word to mean. Hijab is simply modesty. Hijab is also not only a command for women, but for men too



   60 or more countries have laws either mandating or forbidding certain veils and other Islamic dress. In France, for example you are not allowed to wear a full body bathing suit, wear a hijab before age 18 (even if it your personal choice), and for mothers to wear hijab on class trips. Some claim this is secular (ie. Separation of church and state) while others believe this is an infringement on human and religious rights and is caused by Islamaphobia. And there are many other countries-even predominantly Muslim countries with bans on face veils etc. On the other hand, countries like Iran have strict laws mandating loose clothing and hijab and failure to comply may lead to up to ten years in prison. Even so many women are protesting this law.  In western countries women fight for the freedom to wear hijab and in eastern countries fight for freedom to remove hijab. 



   In Iran many people oppose mandatory hijab laws even if they believe in and practice hijab themselves. One Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, fights this using social media and has been fighting it since she was young. She compares Human Rights to the dark, “I realised that the whole human rights situation in Iran is like my childhood backyard: it’s dark, and women should open their eyes as wide as they can, because that’s the way to make the darkness disappear.” This is similar to the idea that if you don't (want to) see or experience discrimination or oppression, it doesn't exist. Alinejad describes life before the mandates as having social freedom with women being the equals of men. As she fought against the mandates, she was arrested multiple times and even had to leave the country. 



   On the other side of this issue, many Muslim women believe that both Islam and the Hijab are feminist and even a symbol of the Feminist Movement. Hijab can allow a woman to reject commercial fashion ideals. The idea that women are forced to wear hijab by men is sexist and in many cases untrue. In the West, commercial companies have helped to normalize hijab ad well. An example of this is the Nike Pro Hijab. While it's debatable whether this is in actual support or a way to benefit from a very large group that is generally left out in fashion, Nike being a leader could help to normalize the hijab in America and other Western countries. 



   While in America, hijab is considered a choice, many still face difficulty and problems with islamaphobia. Halima Aden is an example of this. While she was not necessarily faced with islamaphobia, she did feel pressure to compromise her faith. Halima Aden was the first hijabi muslim to become a professional model. While she is an inspiration for many mulsims all over the world she says that in the industry she felt pressured to compromise her faith multiple times including wearing jeans instead of a hijab. Islamaphobia and general fear of Muslims (and Sikh's perceived to be Muslim) since 9/11 has risen. The Conversation states "Muslims continue to be the most negatively rated religious group". This along with many political movements including Donald Trump's calls for a Muslim travel ban in 2016 and other anti-muslim laws and propaganda has had a negative influence on many Americans with 49% saying that they believe that some Muslims are anti-American. This attitude can allow people to believe that islamaphobia is good and this belief can even lead people to believe that islamaphobia is not wrong and is helping people.



  So is hijab oppression? Yes, in some countries it is. Is hijab freedom? Yes, for some it is. Either way, shouldn't we have a choice? Shouldn't it be our choice how we dress, what parts of our bodies we let the world see? Shouldn't our clothing be our choice?


Visionary I

Interesting, I've never thought of a Hijab as being a form of oppression but I guess that they could be used as oppression or a feeling of freedom. When people are forced to wear them that is oppressive but when they are allowed to have a choice that feels like freedom. There are some places where people are not allowed to wear them and that feels like oppression as well. I think whenever people are forced to do something that they do not want to do wether it is wearing or not being able to wear a Hijab, their freedom is being impacted and oppression is taking place.