Soaked in blood indeed

Rahila Gupta, in today’s Guardian, delivers a confused ramble about the issue of “choice” in wearing or not wearing the hijab in the West and in Saudi Arabia and Iran:

I believe it is misplaced for women to prioritise their race or communal identity over their gender identity. This is a cloth that comes soaked in blood. We cannot debate the burka or the hijab without reference to women in Iran, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, where the wearing of it is heavily policed and any slippages are met with violence.

Muslim women in the west who talk about choosing to wear the hijab implicitly dismiss the struggles of their sisters elsewhere. Sure, not all women in Britain are forced to wear the hijab by the men in their families or communities. Many women argue that it preserves their modesty and protects them from men.

Isn’t it ironic that someone writing against hijab can describe it as “soaked in blood” less than a week after a pregnant woman was stabbed to death in Europe by a man who had harassed her for wearing hijab? Gupta invites us to sympathise with women who are bullied into wearing hijab in Saudi Arabia and Iran, a common argument for denial of Muslim religious rights in the UK when these two countries are, in fact, alone in a lot of aspects of the way they police adherence to Islam. Many religious Muslims, in fact, despise one or both of these régimes. Meanwhile, in other Muslim countries, Muslim women are not allowed to wear hijab at all, or barred from colleges and government buildings while wearing it, or prevented from going about their business, and some of this goes on in Europe as well. There are even Muslim families who try to stop their women wearing hijab. What would Rahila Gupta say to these husbands and fathers?

The comment about women who “prioritise their race or communal identity over their gender identity” is a standard feminist trope. Muslims use the terms “brothers” and “sisters” to mean other Muslims, or actual brothers and sisters, not just other men or other women. If Gupta expects hijab-wearing western Muslim women to have solidarity with women forced against their will to wear hijab in Saudi Arabia, perhaps she should show some for those who struggle for the right to wear it elsewhere without facing discrimination, harassment and murder. Or are those women not Gupta’s idea of “sisters”?

(More: Safiya Outlines, altmuslimah, Joseph Shahadi @ Racialicious.)

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