Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Presentation of Gifts to Islamophobes and Ownership of Hijab

If anyone wants to discuss the hijab, that's great. However, obscuring the voices of Muslim women by imputing on them the reasons that they dress as they do is insulting to the women who wear hijab.

Nomani used the phrase "they believe" in her piece. In so doing,  she made assumptions about people without even talking to them as individual persons about why they make the clothing choices that they do. Nomani's writing left one with the sense that her opinion about what a person trumps that very person's own views as to the same thing. Eww, really. Let individuals speak for themselves, explain themselves to you regarding why they've done various things. There are as many reasons that Muslims dress various ways as there are Muslims.

As we have seen in the backlash from many prominent female scholars, authors, and activists, there are many reasons that women wear hijab. In any discussion of the hijab, we should obviously let Muslim women speak for themselves about why they dress whatever way they dress. Nomani should speak for herself; and she should allow other women to speak for themselves.

I think that what is happening is that Muslim women are asserting their right to define their own relationship with their own hijabs. This is in the face of the way that Asra Nomani imputed on hijabis her own ideas about why people wear the hijab. Nomani attempted to broadly characterise the nature of the hijab and the women who wear it. What I have been seeing is that the women responding to her are reclaiming ownership of their relationships with their hijabs.

Discussions of the hijab or any other piece of clothing unique to Muslims should furthermore not make use of the very tropes which further anti-Muslim bigotry in places where Muslims are a vulnerable minority. This is a more important aspect of the implications of Nomani's piece which should receive more attention than a piece of cloth.

In her article, Asra Nomani did precisely this - she employed anti-Muslim tropes. As per her norm, Nomani has couched opinion on a Muslim topic in a way that lends itself handily to anti-Muslim bigots as fuel for their hateful rhetoric. (This is one explanation for the term "Muslim informant.") She echoed the claims of many prominent Islamophobes who use black-and-white thinking to equate every Muslim person's clothing style to one or another political ideology.

This politicisation of clothing is exactly what prominent American bigots have been doing in order to racialise Muslims and incite hatred against us here. At a time when non-Muslims are seeking to make the world safer for Muslims, Nomani is amplifying her voice to those who see the hijab only ever as a symbol of an extremist, politicised Islamism. That kind of rhetoric is dangerous in the current atmosphere of racism, xenophobia, heterosexism, and other hatreds which are gripping North America and Western Europe.

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