Hijab is in news across India. It all started when a Karnataka college denied entry to girls wearing hijab and said that all students adhere to a uniform dress code. This simple administrative decision of the college has now snowballed into a major controversy. Yasmine Mohammed, author of ‘Unveiled’ and women rights activist explains why extremist men force Hijab on women. In this interview with Vivek Sinha, Editor-in-Chief News Intervention she clarifies that Hijab perpetuates rape culture by encouraging victim-blaming and slut-shaming.
Vivek Sinha: Does Islam mandate that Muslim women ‘Must’ necessarily wear a Hijab/Burqa? Several progressive Muslims say that no Quranic verse mandates Hijab/Burqa. Your comments.
Yasmine Mohammed: There is no verse in the Quran or edict in Hadith that mandates a woman to cover her hair in the way that is commonly described as hijab. These demands that women dress a certain way– covering their hair, in some cases even covering their face– these are all man made ideas to control women. There is no religious justification. The Hadith describe so many things in detail, down to the minutiae. There are Hadith on the proper way to cut fingernails. If Allah or Mohammed thought it was so important for women to dress a certain way, then that would be clear in Islamic scripture.
Vivek Sinha: Is there any authentic Hadith that requires Muslim women to put on a Hijab? If yes, what are they? If not, then please let us know why is Hijab forced upon Muslim women?
Yasmine Mohammed: No, there is not. Hijab is forced on women by extremist men who are also viciously misogynist. They preach that a woman must cover herself so as to not tempt men to harass her. That is called victim-blaming, a toxic mindset that excuses men for their crimes. Imran Khan of Pakistan made that clear when he blamed the exponential number of rapes of women in Pakistan on the victims themselves instead of the criminal men– he said that these rapes happen because women are not observing hijab properly. This idea that women are responsible for the actions of men is irrational and disgusting. Barbaric men harass and rape girls and women regardless of what the women are wearing. They even harass women in Hajj- in Allah’s house. As long as their crimes are excused and blamed on their victims, they have no reason to do any introspection or any progress of their mindsets. It allows them to continue to control women.
Vivek Sinha: A very large section of Indian Muslims are saying that Muslim women must be free to choose what kind of dress they wish to wear. They apply this logic to Hijab and Burqa as well. Slogans such as “My Body My Choice” are being raised in favour of Hijab and Burqa. Your comments.
Yasmine Mohammed: This is a simplistic reduction of the situation. The word “choice” here is being used in a duplicitous manner. Hijab is not considered a choice by extremists. If it were indeed a choice we would not have countless stories of women being disowned by their families, disfigured with acid, imprisoned, and even killed over hijab. These are not isolated cases. Women in Iran, Canada, Germany, Italy, UK, all over the world have been killed– sometimes beheaded– by their family over hijab. Pretending it is a choice is a damning betrayal and insult to the memories of all those women.
Vivek Sinha: In your book “Unveiled” you have said that forcing Hijab on young girls is a way to Empower Radical Islam. Please explain your views to the audience in the Indian subcontinent.
Yasmine Mohammed: Hijab is not imposed on girls in families of open-minded Muslims who understand the values of equality and feminism and basic human rights. It is only forced on the heads of little girls from extremist families. That is why hijab is often called “the flag of Islamists”. They put the flag on the heads of women to assert their distinction from the rest of society. These are not people who are interested in coexisting seamlessly with the greater society around them.
Vivek Sinha: Feminists in India, who should have sided with Muslim women who refuse to put on Hijab, are arguing that Muslim girls and women must be allowed to wear hijab as mandated by Islam. Your comments.
Yasmine Mohammed: This is a vicious betrayal of their own values. I wonder if they would also argue that women need to light themselves on fire when their husband’s die because it is religious. Do they also insist that a young girl’s clitoris be removed with a razor because it is religious? Religion is full of so much archaic, barbaric misogyny and the whole purpose of feminism is to progress society past these inequalities. For so-called feminists to support these things is a most vile betrayal of women and of feminism.
Vivek Sinha: Do you think Hijab is a symbol of patriarchy and oppression? Please comment.
Yasmine Mohammed: Yes, I absolutely believe it is. Hijab is the tip of the iceberg. It is only the physical representation of the misogyny and dehumanization and subjugation that all sits under the surface. It perpetuates rape culture by encouraging victim-blaming and slut-shaming. It separates humanity. It separates women by identifying them as subordinate to men. And it separates women by identifying women without hijab as subordinate to those with hijab. It is a tool of misogyny and subordination.
Vivek Sinha: Taliban has supported Hijab for Karnataka girls. How do you read this development?
Yasmine Mohammed: I think it is very telling that the Taliban are supporting the women of Karnataka. An extremist, terrorist group that is known for dehumanizing women by forcing them in a cloth prison, a group that has murdered women for such offences as leaving the home uncovered or for protesting against hijab– is now supporting the women who proudly uphold this tool of opression and patriarchy. Unfortunately, women support their own subjugation all the time. Mothers force their daughters in to child marriages, women perform FGM (female genital mutilation) on little girls, the list is depressingly long. And when they do, they are heralded and applauded by misogynist men who want nothing more for these women to remain in their indoctrinated stupor so they can continue their tyrannical control.