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The Stupidity of Comparing Hijab to Pole Dancing

The Politics of Hijāb

The hijāb is a concept which goes beyond the sublunary. It connects to the spiritual by obliterating worldly expectations in favour of conformity to that which is most pleasing to Allāh, Most High. It is, for many Muslim women, attuned to their faith, a source of comfort and a means, like other religious dictates, to become closer to Allāh.

Naturally, the bond that forms between mother and daughter is unlike other relationships.  It does not require studies to prove that children imitate their parents.[1] Fathers will often speak of their sons asking when their beards will sprout.  Similarly, little Amīna, ʿĀ’isha or Āsia, seemingly occupied with her toys, will often be seen keenly observing mummy as she wraps her shawl around her head and perhaps dons the niqāb. It is not too long before said child asks, “Where’s mine?” To deny her interest would deny something beloved to Allāh. Of course, it is not obligatory, but watching your child go sparkly-eyed over any aspect of faith brings joy to the heart of any Muslim parent.

Jarring with this reality are the screeching interjections of one particular self-described “Muslim feminist” regarding a spat between Muslim parents and a Birmingham school.[2][3] The school has prevented a pupil from wearing the hijab, purportedly in line with the school’s policy.

According reports in the media,[4] the Catholic school had instituted a new uniform policy since September, forcing young Muslim girls who did wear the headscarf in school to remove it. This contrasts with Sikh children who can continue to wear the turban.  Based on this brief analysis, it does seem like the school policy has resulted in indirect discrimination; the policy applies to all, but its effect is largely limited to Muslim girls.[5] Parents of the young pupil as well as other parents have pointed out that the pupil herself wished to wear the headscarf. The school has threatened the pupil with punishment such as exclusion from breaks, swimming lessons and class trips. A parent has stated that the four-year old was feeling “absolutely devastated” and “went home crying and really upset.”

The disproportionate behaviour towards a young school girl, or her mental state after experiencing exclusion, is unfortunately not the concern of such “Muslim feminists”. The Muslim-bashing seems to have been taken with a series of subjective and irrational pronouncements.

Though it is true that the hijāb is not a requirement for prepubescent girls, the conclusion that the “criticism” of the school “had been unfair” ignores the fact that the hijāb is still an aspect of general Muslim culture. Government guidance on the Equalities Act 2010 in the context of schools highlights the need for schools to “be sensitive to the needs of different cultures, races and religions and act reasonably in accommodating these needs”.[6] Also, the fact that Sikh children can continue wearing their turbans exasperates the insensitivity and discrimination on the part of the school, despite the religious encouragement of Sikhs to wear a turban confusingly characterised as a racial trait.

Blame the Victim Logic

The statements released as a result of this demonstrate an unhealthy obsession with doing away with the hijāb. The belief that “we should let children be children” suggest that pieces of cloth, which, in addition to covering the body also happen to cover the head, magically turn children into something else.  Such charming commentators have also said they “personally” do not like to see the wearing of hijābs among young girls “normalised”, turning into a feminist fashion police and dictating to Muslims which of their practices are considered the norm. In doing so, they are of course effectively exerting control over mainstream Muslim women.

Worse still (considering their claim to feminism), they shockingly employ the argument that echoes victim-blaming:

“I would personally not like to see it normalised for four and five-year-olds to be wearing headscarfs… In the current climate there is so much negativity towards Islām.”

Read: Muslims must behave in a manner in which they are second-class citizens, not entitled to exercise their cultural and religious rights like other communities. Rather, they should capitulate to a bigoted atmosphere.  Common sense would dictate that the bigoted climate should be challenged and the feminist pious preaching re-directed at those who perpetuate the “current climate”. As it is, these statements are a worrying message to the Muslim community.

Sexualising Children?

The rational disintegration is most acute with a particularly gut-wrenching soundbite in which it is argued that Muslim parents who make young children wear the hijāb should be challenged like parents who spray tan or give pole dancing lessons to young girls. According to this ideological imposition, the purpose of the hijāb is designed to discourage “unwanted sexual attention”, therefore sexualising children.[7]

Among the many points that were studiously ignored, was the fact that the pupil was not forced to wear the hijāb and how Muslim parents actually see their child in a headscarf. This soundbite was, however, proudly proliferated in the Daily Mail, Express, and other right-wing trash outlets.[8] It demonstrated the affinity such narratives, which contain coded Orientalism (girls wearing hijāb must have been forced to do so to fend off those uncontrollable savages around them), have with papers with a history of Islamophobic reporting.

A close analysis reveals that the argument is actually quite ridiculous. If, as is claimed, the hijāb discourages sexual advances, how exactly does this translate as sexualising a child? It logically does not follow. It is like arguing a safeguarding lesson for children on child grooming is paedophilic. Indeed, why cover up at all? Public genital exposure would be considered “indecent exposure” falling foul of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and possibly the Public Order Act 1986. Clothing small children would therefore be considered a form sexualisation. The argument is completely absurd. This is before one even considers the arbitrariness of western normative practices of “covering” in public—how would these people react if those cultures where it is “normal” for women to walk around bare chested, were to paint a simple blouse as “sexualising”?

Moreover, there is absolutely no moral equivalence between a woman dancing about a pole, which is inherently associated with the gross sexualisation of women, and the Islamic concept of the hijab which, in fact, raises a woman above such base desires and de-materialises her. Only a seriously deluded moral compass would attempt to analogise two notions which are conceptually diametrically opposed.

I would argue that this is to be expected from a “Muslim feminist”. Feminism is an ideology which is volatile enough to produce adherents that claim strip clubs are completely in tune with feminism.[9] It also produces the likes of those who would seem to oppose it. No amount of “intersectionality” deflections or denial of particular interpretations negates the fact that such ridiculous positions are all valid in the wasteland of feminism. While it has provided women the right to vote and equal opportunities, when it comes to providing a coherent moral compass, feminism has quite miserably failed. Instead, it offers incoherence derived from the debris of male society.  Those women who seek to “fix” Islām through broken, intellectually unconvincing ideas would do better dedicating their efforts to sorting out feminism first. They should also ponder the motivations of the actions and agendas they profess which, ironically, exploit them as “weapons” of the state.

Given a certain commentator’s well-known involvement in the neo-conservative countering violent extremism (CVE) agenda,[10][11] consideration should also be given to how this agenda abuses Muslim women. There has been an effort to integrate the “gender dimension” into the agenda, thus securitising issues related to Muslim women. Describing this agenda as a form of weaponisation of Muslim women, a recent analysis which looked at Prevent and its international variant CVE,[12] revealed how Muslim women were being used as tools to “penetrate communities more deeply” for Prevent purposes. Yet the very same “British values”-based Prevent policy is also being used to drive the discussion on integration. Louise Casey has, as part of her review into integration, described it as “common-sense” that Muslim families be viewed as suspicious if their women wear the hijāb, jilbāb and niqāb.[13]

For us Muslim women caught between the saviour feminists pouring pity while attacking Islām and the right-wing modern day colonialists wishing to eradicate our faith through securitisation, sanctuary remains firmly within the domain of Allāh. Our rights and responsibilities and rights and wrongs are set by a source of stability which is unmatched.

“If We had sent down this Qur’ān upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allāh. And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will reflect.” [14]

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2010/05/kids-overimitate-adults-regardless-culture

[2] https://twitter.com/ShaistaGohir/status/824302192496668674

[3] https://twitter.com/ShaistaGohir/status/824302192496668674

[4] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4155116/Wearing-hijab-bad-kids-having-spray-tans.html/

[5] https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/law-and-courts/discrimination/what-are-the-different-types-of-discrimination/indirect-discrimination/

[6] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/315587/Equality_Act_Advice_Final.pdf

[7] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4155116/Wearing-hijab-bad-kids-having-spray-tans.html/

[8] http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/758579/muslim-network-welcomes-school-hijab-ban-birmingham

[9] https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/jennifer-izaakson-maajid-nawaz/

[10] https://coolnessofhind.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/a-response-to-shaista-gohirs-huff-post-piece/

[11] http://5pillarsuk.com/2017/01/25/imams-online-or-imams-in-line/

[12] http://5pillarsuk.com/2017/01/27/can-scholars-justify-their-role-in-todays-countering-violent-extremism-initiatives/

[13] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/575973/The_Casey_Review_Report.pdf Para. 8.32

[14] Al-Qur’ān, 59:21

About Quratulayn Haamidah

Quratulayn is a student of knowledge in the Hanafi school of law. She has studied law, works professionally and takes a keen interest in Muslim public affairs.

3 comments

  1. We had no problem before with burqa headscarf Nikaab and so on it only started after the Iraq war which killed millions and made millions homeless and more hatred and that was end of democracy. If a Muslim child goes to a Muslim school then they are accused of segregating themselves and training to be terrorists but if they go to a Catholic school they are accused of taking advantage and refusing to abide by ridiculous uniform rules! I don’t really see what the issue is with wearing the headscarf. It’s not an offensive item of clothing and doesn’t inhibit a student’s ability to learn. I think it has less to do with an item of clothing and more to do with something else. Why they have still problem with headscarfs??? Virgin Marry had headscarf.. till now in each church!! The Bible tells woman to wear scarf or shave their hair off… Funny isn’t it when you look at almost all photos depicting Mary , mother of Jesus , may God bless them , she always has a head cover on , nuns do too , some Jews and orthodox Christians as well , but a Muslim and call it a hijab , no, that’s totally wrong …… Mary wore a hijab , so do all the nuns. So what’s the issue here ? Very perplexing and contradicting stand by the school bordering on xenophobia.

    Many Muslim and other faiths attended the RC schools. Part of the ethos of the school was to embrace and promote tolerance. There was no problem with head scarves etc. That a simple thing like a scarf should incite the nasty racist comments I’m reading here, says a lot about what is wrong in the UK. People don’t have much to worry about if a scarf causes such a reaction. Try instead to be good people. Embrace and tolerate our differences and we could make the world a much better place. Then Catholics should ban Mery from their churches and residences as she also wore hijab…Nuns also wear hijab…. Muslims pay respect to Jesus as a prophet. Hahaha true christians would cover their head. There are no such thing as Roman Catholic woteva nowadays. It’s just hypocrisy. The semitic middle eastern Jesus would be ashamed of such non-semitic “Roman Catholic” pagans Haa! I find it intriguing that the headscarf is such an issue when all the depictions of the virgin marry are in a full headscarf and an abaya like dress. Its time for the christians to be coherent with their religion! What a shame. From original catholic’s religion point of view all school pupils should be wearing headscarf.. it’s harsh how religions are changing for the sake of politic interest.. I don’t know if headscarf is only seeing today as Muslims symbols,so does that means Christian Catholics are not reading their Bible ? Because I see this command to the women boldly in the Bible, may be they considered it old modern they need something of today’s passion.

    Modesty is part of both religions which is why nuns dress the way they do. I wonder if the school would force a nun to disrobe if she were to teach a lesson there? They seem to be taking an anti Muslim stance but are actually going against their own beliefs. She has to remove her hijab, the hijab that is an example of Mary’s (the mother of Jesus) attire? Strange. catholic women originally covered their hair, in Italy they still do in church, in other countries devout Christian women always cover their hair, yet in a ‘catholic’ school this is not allowed. I can understand why perhaps other schools may not allow it, but in this context it just shows they have lost touch with their Christianity. I believe all parents should have the right to do what they feel is right for their children. Don’t you think we should try to raise our children in the image of a pious and revered person? It’s up to the child whether if she accepts it or not when he/she grows into an adult but our duty as parents are that we show them the way we think is right. The word “made” really adds a negative effect. I don’t understand why the headscarf was a problem, many Catholic schools have nuns as staff and they wear the equivalent of the Muslim headscarf. If she wanted to wear the facial coverings I could understand but not the head coverings. Seems very petty. Mary wore head coverings, maybe not hijab but a veil of some kind. For the same reason Muslim women wear the headscarf, to keep the hair special for her husband and for modesty. Also of course the practical part for keeping sand out of her hair.

    Why is a head covering a violation of the uniform policy? What if a child had a medical problem that required a cap, or other head covering? This seems wrong to me, especially for a religiously-based school to be so intolerant. This has surely got to be a non story, the school would have pointed out the potential uniform issue before the child was accepted and informed the parents of the need to comply and obtained agreement beforehand. Muslims just like any other religion should be allowed to wear whatever is in their religious culture, hejab is their choice! No one has the right to ask them to take the hejab off , I think if you believe this , then you absolutely practice being a democratic nation. Meanwhile, generations of Muslim girls wore their tudongs/hijabs and completed their education in Catholic convent schools in Singapore without anyone getting offended. Ignorance fuelled racism and sectarianism. I’m with the Equalities guy, who is Muslim, it’s between the parents and the school…a non-story.

    Multiculturalism is not about integration but about cultural plurality. It is not about separation but about respect and the deepening awareness of Unity in Diversity. Each culture will maintain its own intrinsic value and at the same time would be expected to contribute to the benefit of the whole society. Multiculturalism can accommodate diversity of all kinds – cultural, philosophical and religious – so that we can create a world without conflict and strife. Britain can assume the role of accommodation and concern for all peoples, for our planet and indeed for our survival. Multi-Culturalism is even more important and crucial after 9/11 and 7/7. Muslim youths are also likely to feel alienated by a focus on shared Brutishness, rather than multicultural diversity. Rather than promoting a single British “us” teaching should acknowledge that “us” can be diverse and plural. Children should be encouraged to explore differences in appearance, history and religion to reduce social and educational fears.

    No one has any problem when: Jews keep beards and wear their traditional caps Christian priests and nuns wear their religious outfits Buddhist monks wear orange robes Sikhs keep beards and wear turbans Indian aunties wear Sarees (cross streets and hang out in Wal-Mart) Yeah but if any Muslim male keeps beard or if any Muslim girl wears hijab then everyone has problem. It’s Freedom when you go naked but it’s extremism when you wear hijab – just plain hypocrisy! Looking at the case of France, a major secular nation, I believe it is also not allowing women freedom by not letting her to wear her choice of clothing as it supposedly “clashes with French secular values”.

    Stop treating foreigners like garbage and they will stop ruining your precious country. Why did you let them in in the first place if you didn’t want them here? They left everything in their countries because of your promises. Are you so anxious to please that you can’t say “no”? I would love to see you go to a foreign land where you don’t have any friends, you don’t even know anyone and you don’t speak the language, and start from scratch. I would just LOVE to watch you do that. Let them integrate and stop segregating them. What I want is people being nice to each other. I don’t care about race.

    It is a crime against humanity to send Muslim children to non-Muslim schools with non-Muslim teachers. Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods, There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.

    A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. The whole world belongs to Muslims. It does not mean that we are going to throw native Brits into English channel or force them to live in reservations like Red Indian. They are going to live side by side with the Muslims and with other minority communities. Why can’t each nationality and religion keep its own identity. The animal world can see it. Of the 40 species of sparrows they will not cross breed. This will keep the beauty of each bird. People should learn from them.

    The Muslim community has been passing through a phase of fourth Crusades. The battleground is the field of education, where the young generation will be educated properly with the Holly Quran in one hand and Sciences in other hand to serve the British society and the world at large. A true Muslim is a citizen of the world, which has become a small global village. We are going to prepare our youth to achieve that objective in the long run. A true Muslim believes in Prophet Moses and the Prophet Jesus and without them one cannot be a Muslim. My suggestion is that in all state, independent and Christian based school special attention should be given to the teaching of Comparative Religion and Islam should be taught by qualified Muslim Teachers to make the children aware the closeness of Islam to Christianity and Judaism which will help them to think about Islam, as “A Pragmatic and Modern Way of Life,” during their life time.

    According to a recent report, Muslim schools performed best overall, although they constitute only a fraction of the country’s 7000 schools. Muslim schools do well because of their Islamic ethos and a focus on traditional discipline and teaching methods. They teach children what is right and what is wrong, because young children need structured guidance.

    A report by the Institute for Community Cohesion found that native parents were deserting some schools after finding their children out numbered by pupils from ethnic minorities. Schools in parts of England are becoming increasingly segregated. The study focused on 13 local authorities. Many of the schools and colleges are segregated and this was generally worsening over recent years. This is RACISM because British society is the home of institutional racism. My statement regarding Muslim schools where there is no place for non-Muslim child or a teacher is based on educational process and not on racism. Muslim children need Muslim teachers during their developmental periods. For higher studies and research, Muslim teacher is not a priority.

    You better teach your children in your own schools and let migrant communities teach their children according to their needs and demands. British Establishment and society should concentrate on the evils of their own society and stop trying to change the way of life of Muslims. Muslim community does not want to integrate with the British society, indulging in incivility, anti-social behaviour, drug and knife culture, binge drinking, teenage pregnancies and abortion. Prince Charles, while visiting the first grant maintained Muslim school in north London, said that the pupils would be the future ambassadors of Islam. But what about thousands of others, who attend state schools deemed to be “sink schools”? In education, there should be a choice and at present it is denied to the Muslim community. In the late 80s and early 90s, when I floated the idea of Muslim community schools, I was declared a “school hijacker” by an editorial in the Newham Recorder newspaper in east London. This clearly shows that the British media does not believe in choice and diversity in the field of education and has no respect for those who are different. Muslim schools, in spite of meager resources, have excelled to a further extent this year, with couple of schools achieving 100% A-C grades for five or more GCSEs. They beat well resourced state and independent schools in Birmingham and Hackney. Muslim schools are doing better because a majority of the teachers are Muslim. The pupils are not exposed to the pressures of racism, multiculturalism and bullying.

    There are hundreds of state primary and secondary schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion all such schools may be opted out to become Muslim Academies. This mean the Muslim children will get a decent education. Muslim schools turned out balanced citizens, more tolerant of others and less likely to succumb to criminality or extremism. Muslim schools give young people confidence in who they are and an understanding of Islam’s teaching of tolerance and respect which prepares them for a positive and fulfilling role in society. Muslim schools are attractive to Muslim parents because they have better discipline and teaching Islamic values. Children like discipline, structure and boundaries. Bilingual Muslim children need Bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods, who understand their needs and demands.
    IA
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

  2. Salaam Alaykum,

    What was the school’s actual justification for allowing thurbans while forbidding Hijab ?

    Also, have the parents appealed the decision, and/or tried to start a petition against this course of action?

  3. Thomas I Al-Yasha

    As Salaam Alaikum
    Brother Commentator, I was for a while engrossed in reading your comments regarding Hjiab in schools. Very unfortunately for me, Your article was juxtapositioned next to a picture of a Muslim man carrying a dead infant in Syria. We in Western culture are removed from this experience, therefore we don’t sense the urgency. But the picture brings us back to a reality that is very significant.
    It reminds us that we cannot secure our children from bombing raids that kill and maim thousands per month, per week, per day. What will you do is a very relevant consideration.
    Up to now, what has been done is insufficient.
    But hijab or no hijab, the children are dead.

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