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Dangers of ‘instant feminism’ and the burqa row: How it creates unsafe space for non-Hijabi women

It is time to move beyond simplistic virtue signalling on the issue of Hijab and analyse the issue without bias. We owe it to the pioneers of feminism.

Instant gratification, on the spot judgment, 30 second reels. This is our life now.

We have accepted it.

Yet I find it extremely hard to accept the simplistic virtue signalling around the issue of Hijab. What started as ‘right to wear head covering Hijab’ in college has now turned into right to wearing full body veil of burqa.

I’m not against Hijab on religious grounds. Not at all. Religion is a source of great succour tomany. I do not advocate militant atheism or anti-theism either. I’m also of the view that women should be able to decide what they want, without being judged. This is what women have fought for over a hundred years now, these are freedoms worth fighting for.

But the devil, as they say, is in the details.

I am summarising them in five points below.

Women’s safety is more important than any religion

Hijab is mandatory in Islam. You can keep saying it is a choice all you want, but every religious scholar will tell you it is mandatory, on the pain of punishment. Add to this the attitude this invariably leads to – that only women in Hijab are virtuous and this quickly escalates into a society where non Hijabi women, Muslim or otherwise, are dehumanised. And we have soul crushing examples of this too. At least 5000 very young women, raped, sold into prostitution, and exploited in UK grooming gangs, all belonged to this dehumanised class of women. Harmless? NO!

Even if women preach misogyny, it is still wrong

Just because some, mostly high caste Muslim women, are advocating for Hijab, does not make it a voice of feminism. They are only voicing Islamic patriarchy for religious reasons. A valid comparison would be the role some women played in opposing first and second wave feminism. Patriarchy supported by women is still patriarchy.

You do not have to support Hijab just because your political opponents oppose it

This much intellectual honesty and courage is expected from educated people. On one hand, educated, privileged Muslim women, who themselves do not wear hijabs or burqas and identify themselves as ‘feminists’ are batting for a symbol of oppression of women since decades. On other hand, there are Muslim women in country like Afghanistan under rule of Islamist group such as Taliban where they are killed for fighting for their right to NOT wear a Hijab. Because if Hijab is a choice, not wearing one should be a choice too, right? Your activism cannot be based on convenience.

All clothes are not the same

It is simplistic, nay, dishonest to say all clothes are the same. A girl wearing modern clothes is actually challenging societal rules of what is acceptable behaviour that guarantees safety. Anyone who advocates for Hijab is doing the exact opposite. Many Muslim men view only Hijabi women worthy of respect. Islamists believe a women covered only is a virtuous woman.

Poster from India on virtues of burqa

A poster in India recently showed women covered in burqa which read ‘every precious thing is always in a pardah and garbage is always open’. This kind of ideology dehumanises non-Hijabi women and paints them as a target. This makes public spaces unsafe for non-Hijabi women.

Sacrificing feminism at the altar of allyship

Let us stop pretending anything I have said above is new. This is the basics of what we have fought for over a hundred years. Social media feminists pretending they don’t know these fundamentals; their refusal to analyse the social impact of the views they are supporting; defeats the basics of feminism.

Sure, allyship with any group, particularly one that they see as oppressed, is fine, but it is NOT fine when that allyship is at the cost of feminism itself. Let us not forget, in Jammu and Kashmir, in 2002, four young women were beheaded by militants because they failed to wear burqa.

Choice? I dare say not.

It is time to move beyond simplistic virtue signalling on the issue of Hijab and analyse the issue without bias. We owe it to the pioneers of feminism.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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