études féministes/ estudos feministas
Consequently, Muslim women’s hijab appears in various forms, such as the headscarf, chador, burka and niqab, in both Muslim and European countries. According to Tiefenbrun (2007), the headscarf has had at least 5 different connotations: as a sign of virtue and honor; of Muslim identity; of power over women; of woman’s political engagement; of a form of humiliation. However, it could definitely be said there is not a clear definition, unified agreement or understanding of hijab even among numbers of Muslims who are required themselves to wear hijab. Therefore, it is also one of the controversial subjects among Muslims.
On the one hand, most of the women living in countries under Islamic laws oppose wearing the hijab and struggle to resolve the veil and refuse being covered. They are fighting for liberation from the veil and some women have even been fined or imprisoned. On the other hand, other Muslim women in the European countries are trying to define their identity by wearing a veil and the exportation of political Islam to the Western countries. Of course there is a third category that is veiled women who after challenging their traditional and religious barriers, finally decided to abandon the veil.
As Mumin Salih (2009) correctly observed “The important fact to know about hijab is that it is purely a political issue, promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood movement”. The bitter irony is, of course, that the hijab is defined by men, and obeyed by Muslim women. However, it should be noted that many Muslim women ask why they should be forced to veil or how much must they cover up. There has also been much debate about the hijab amongst women's rights defenders, ordinary people and social researchers.
Of course, if we want to talk about why and how women are forced to wear Hijab, we should go back to the history of it. Firstly, it should be mentioned that the veil does not only refer to Islam and is not only used by the majority of Muslim women but it has also encouraged women in Judaism to wear veils. Secondly, it was actually linked with the displaying of status, religious beliefs or origins and therefore differed in shape and custom. The headscarf was used by some men as well to distinguish their class. Since the 1970s the veil has gradually become a political tool. For instance, by the hijab Muslim could identify themselves, be visible and show their power. ( Ashraf Ezzat, 2010) The Turkish basörtüs, for example, have been worn over the years as symbols of protest against secularism.
But today the headscarf is a means of controlling women and society and thus a political tool. For instance, in Iran the Ershad patrol cars under the pretext of controlling the veil of women, use the patrol to monitor the behaviour of young women and men and even meddle in their private affairs. Over time in western countries, intent of hijab has changed to be associated with religious identity and sense of community.
Contrary to what most people think, opposition and struggle against hijab by women's rights defenders has not started in recent years. It actually has a long history. For instance, “Ghorat-al-ein” was the first Iranian woman imprisoned in 1848 for her views on religion and taking off the Burka during a speech in “Beh-dasht”. She was executed after 3 years in Tehran on charges of vulgarity (Mofsed fel-arz). Opposition of women against forced veiling has continued in various ways. From another dimension, since the early twentieth century, the contention on women's veil has been a field of struggle and conflict between secularism and theocracy, tradition and modernity. Two prominent examples are of where this occurred are in Turkey at the time of Ata Turk and in Iran under the influence of Reza Shah Pahlavi who ordered women to be unveiled. To some extent this also happened in Egypt at the time of Gamal Abdel Nasser.
At the beginning of the 20th century Reza Shah Pahlavi sensibly altered the lives of women in Iran. Among others, non-sex segregated schools were opened in the country, and unveiling was enforced in 1936. Before that the Iranian female population wore a three pieces dress consisting of a chador, a long veil that covered them from head to toe, a rubandeh, a short veil that masked the face, and a chaqchur, very loose trousers, that assured them space and identity as a zai´feh, the weak sex obedient to men´s will. (Sedghi Hamideh, s/d) (Awkward - is this phrase modifying Zai'feh) Until 1979 the majority of women in Iran were unveiled. Simultaneously in Algeria, the situation was approximately the same for women as it was in Iran. On May 13, 1958 Algerian women pioneers tore off their veils at ‘’Place du Gouvernement” and thereby declared their opposition to the wearing of the hijab. Until the early 1990s, the majority of women in Algeria were unveiled. Also the situation in Egypt, as Beth Baron ()1989) wrote
Examples mentioned in this article are chosen to show the role of religion and the rise of Islamic states in veiled women. Although in Turkey, hijab is not mandatory, but propaganda veils as a value are widely and women are manipulated and encouraged to wear hijab. In Iran women were experiencing worse situation, with the Islamic revolution of 1979, the state issued legally compulsory women's veil.
Though the obligatory dress code for women in Iran was met with initial resistance, and thousands of women protested against forced veiling in Tehran and other Iranian great cities, in March 8, 1979, on International Women's Day, veiling became law.
Islamic groups’ political Islamic parties, individuals and coherent Islamic organizations determining the veiling of women have had a major role. The Muslim Brotherhood, Taliban, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Saudi Arabia and Iran in particular the rule of Ayatollah Khomeini and other radical Islamist groups used the veiling of women to their advantages to develop and promote Islam. As Salih (Salih 2009) shows, the Islamist groups, such as Muslim Brotherhood, are seeking political power. To achieve power, they are content with a minimal dress code for women such as a headscarf. However, once in power they will be able to enforce a stricter dress code.
Katia Bengana, (Rod Skilbeck, 1995) a victim of the Islamist war in Algeria, refused the veil and defended her choice even as executioners pointed a gun at her head. How many women have the courage to be like Katia Bengana or choose her way? The fact of the matter is that many Muslim women want to escape from the bondage of the veil. According to a follower of My Stealthy Freedom on Facebook,
"Compulsory Hijab is arguably the only form of punishment in the world where, instead of the offender, it is the complainant that suffers throughout all her life. It is also the only punishment that is meted out even before the crime is actually committed."
Some argue that it is the choice of women to wear the hijab. However, it should be noted that, in the case of religious indoctrination there is no choice; for example, when telling a baby girl that for redemption she must have the veil. This is a compulsory action, not optional. This is an ideology. In this context there is no choice. Islamic ideology says that women should cover themselves from the eyes of male strangers. The result of religious education given to women is permanent suffering and guilt throughout their life, if their hair is revealed. They are ordered to cover their hair to be considered a good female Muslim. Freedom is an essential condition for choice, but in this case there is no freedom. A Muslim woman is forced cover herself in the public sphere to prove her religiosity. Her body used as an ideological object.
It is noticeable, that women who are forced to wear hijab as a result of domineering male guardianship, when introduced into a society where equality between men and women is preferred over religious values, they will feel that they are unwelcome. It is painful for them when they are sitting on the train, bus or in public space and someone looks at them as if they are an outsider. They will feel rejected. However, it is important to note that all of these conditions and situations are imposed on women by men. Resistance to these laws have terrible consequences such as fines, prison sentences or even physical violence. Hence, violence comes in the form of religion, sometimes forcibly imposed on women, such as veiling in Iran. Sometimes it appears optional, such as the veiling of women in non- Islamic societies which is in reality as political tool. However, these are two sides of the same coin.
No doubt, human beings should be free to choose their own religion and ideology, but human rights place emphasis on equality too, if an ideology or religion has violence or discrimination against followers or a part of society, it should be criticized. Violent traditions such as female genital mutilation or compulsory hijab are obvious examples of violence against women. Obviously, veiled women contribute to the preservation and transmission of traditional values and patriarchal hierarchy and also perpetuate and legitimize gender violence against women.
The hijab is in conflict with the principle of the universality of human rights and the independence and impartiality of these rights in relation to race, gender, language, nationality and religion.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the story of burqa is beyond the typical hijab, it is as an extreme form of hijab, which is the symbol of political fundamental Islam that aggressively deprives women of human identity. In other words, Sharia law is what must be challenged, those putting pressures on Muslim women to observe the hijab.
The term "Muslim world" in a modern geopolitical sense, usually refers collectively to Muslim-majority countries, states, districts or towns. Although the history of Islam began in Arabia, nowadays, with the growing phenomenon of Islamism in the Middle East, especially due to massive migration of Muslims to different parts of the world, Muslims are living on all continents of the world. Around 6.0% of the population in Europe are Muslims. Although the majority of European countries, mainly those in the EU, are secular states whose constitutions have recognized the freedom of religion the wearing of the hijab by some of the Muslim women is one of the most challenging issues Despite the fact that the number of veiled women immigrants is small compared to the population of Muslim immigrants and many Muslim women do not have any tendency to wear or believe in hijab. However, Europe today is confronted by an unprecedented set of immigrants’ challenges. Hijab is one of the most controversial topics among politicians, individuals and sociologist, and much research has been done in the academic community in recent years.
Some studies about the headscarf focused on comparing policy discourses such as between Germany and the Netherlands(Saharso2007) or France and Germany (Joppke,2009; Amir Moazami,2007; Kastoryano,2006) and United Kingdom and Germany (poulter 1997,Amiraux,2003;2007,Liederman 2000). Furthermore, Lettinga (2011) studied the comparative framework of the parliamentary debates on the hijab in Germany, Netherland and France. Christian Joppke (2009) discusses the challenges surrounding paradoxical co-existence of two belief systems: liberalism in Europe and Islam. Also, Kastoryano mentioned the French debates on the headscarf, and the 2004 law banning religious signs from public schools in France. Bracke and Fadil investigated the multi-cultural debate on the veil in Belgium.
Saharso mentions “In the Netherlands the Islamic headscarf meets with an accommodating policy reaction, while in Germany some of federal states have introduced legislation to ban the headscarf’’. To summarize, she argued that the political debates in France, Germany and The Netherlands converged over time. Some public discussions seek ways of debating cultural diversity and enhancing tolerance. Based on the investigation of the strategies of governments and several other studies the issue of Hijab in Europe can be examined from different angles. It can be said that the outcome of almost all the challenges and discussions concerning covering the face with the burqa, has declared that it should not be allowed. Whereas Amir-Moazami’s (2007) findings, in a study of France and Germany show, that headscarf controversies are a second-generation phenomenon and that “looking closely, they coincide with the institutionalization of Islam” (p.15).By the same token, I should mention, that insufficient attention to the integration of immigrants could be one of the causes of the tendency of the younger generation to participate in Islam.
Most academic research in this area has examined how host countries have handled the issue of the hijab. Fewer have addressed the issue as a cause of discrimination. Perhaps more profound and fundamental studies about hijab related to the women's rights could be helpful in order to solve the root problem of the hijab.
France was the first European country to ban the full-face Islamic veil in public places. In 2004, France passed a highly controversial law which forbade students in state-run schools to display any form of religious symbols, including veils, crosses or Jewish skull caps.( The Guardian(2013) July 2013) In a similar move, the government of Denmark in 2008 announced it would ban judges from wearing headscarves and similar religious or political symbols - including crucifixes, Jewish skull caps and turbans - in courtrooms (Thomas Buch-Andersen,2008). Barcelona was the first major city in Spain to ban the full-face Islamic veil in public buildings such as municipal offices, public markets and libraries although there is no Islamic veil-ban in Spain.
There is no ban on Islamic dress in the United Kingdom, but schools are allowed to decide their own dress code after a 2007 directive which followed several high-profile court cases. But the problems surrounding hijab in Britain are not solved by adopting such a policy. Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne called for a "national debate" about Islamic hijab in public places, such as schools in September 2013. (The Guardian(2013)
As we have seen, various solutions have been proposed by the different European countries to deal with the wearing of hijab in public places. For instance, France has predominantly focused on students’ headscarves. Germany and Switzerland have debated with public school teachers, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have focused on the Islamic face covering. In Norway, the Gender Equality Ombud has found bans of headscarves in two private enterprises to be in violation of the indirect discrimination clause in the Gender Equality Act. In 2010 Belgium's lower house of parliament has voted for a law that would ban women from wearing the full Islamic face veil in public and lawmakers have passed a burka ban. Despite lawmakers adopting different approaches, because of the paradoxical of Hijab issue, it is naive to think that the freedom to veil as she wishes, truly respects the rights of Muslim women. Since Muslim women's rights are violated when sharia law says that Muslim women must be veiled in accordance with Islamic laws.
Recently, there has been a turnaround by the West in policy towards the Islamic veil. Although, in some countries, such as France, there is a tougher stance towards the hijab. Despite this, veiled women are now present in television programs and in classrooms as teachers. This shift to the right is so severe that, in an unprecedented action, during Iran's President Hassan Rouhani's visit to Italy in January 2016, the government covered the naked sculptures including a centuries-old Venus at Rome's Capitoline Museum. It should be noted that the covered nude sculptures are not only disrespectful but also deemed insulting to the artist's work.
Iranian intellectuals strongly criticized this Western diplomacy policy and behavior. The question is whether the West is ashamed of its own culture? Is not such behaviour ignoring women’s rights defenders, who fight for gain equality? In a similar act, Air France started veiling women while in Iran as a form of "respect." While visiting Iran, some women diplomats accepted to wear the headscarf and complied with Iran's dress code! Politician Marietje Schaake, a member of the European Parliament of the Netherlands, wore a headscarf while visiting Iran as a part of the European parliament delegation. She was criticized by two sides. First, by the hard-line conservative part of the government because she had not fully adhered to the country's hijab rules. Second, by many Iranian women who wanted freedom to choose their attire. The European diplomat's policy provoked the anger of women's rights activists and in particular those activists in Iran.
With the growing phenomenon of radical Islamism in the Middle East along with immigration to Europe, some Muslim women living in Europe have resumed hijab to reclaim their "muslim identity"; in their opinion wearing hijab sybolizes the refusal to assimilate with Western values and increases the visibility of Islam in European society. Muslim women are faced with the paradox of wanting to enjoy the freedom of a secular society and wanting to be a part of a religious community.
The European Union's internal policy is not consistent in dealing with those who follow the Islamic dress code. Although European countries have different approaches towards a policy for finding a solution for the hijab, with the spread of the phenomenon of fundamentalism, existing solutions have not been very effective and have not worked. The most common objection, made not only by the politicians but also by ordinary people, to the wearing of the niqab in Europe, is that wearing a mask in public places deprives society of security and citizens of comfort. However, hijab is accepted as ‘gender identity’ for Muslim women by official policy based on the discursive contours of the multicultural debate in Europe.
In terms of foreign policy, some of the European politicians, irrespective of human rights, have adopted their policy of appeasement with the Islamic Republic. While Iranian women have refused the obligation to wear the hijab, these women are now forced to wear the Islamic veil. In the case of unveiling in a public space, they face a fine and a prison sentence of up to two years.
In addition to all this, it is necessary to note that some Muslim women choose to wear headscarves to be charming and considerate, some use the hijab as a political tool, whereas others have no desire to be veiled, rather they are forced to wear a headscarf by their family. However, women’s rights defenders redefined the hijab as a symbol of inequality and objectification of women. The European Union has been paralyzed, seeking to adopt an appropriate policy that also includes gender equality.
However, human beings should be free to choose their own religion and ideology, but human rights emphasise equality too. If an ideology or religion allows violence or discrimination against its followers or a part of society, it should be criticized. Violent traditions such as female genital mutilation or compulsory hijab are obvious examples of violence against women. Obviously, veiled women unknowingly contribute to the preservation and transmission of traditional values and patriarchal hierarchy and also perpetuate and legitimize gender violence against women.
incompliant with the universality of human rights and the independence
and impartiality of these rights in relation to race, gender, language,
nationality and religion.
Amir Moazami,Sh.(2007). Politisierte Religion: Der Kopftuchstreit in Deutschland und Frankreich (Globaler lokaler Islam), Verlag: Transkript (1. April 2007)
the hijab, the governance of intersecting religious ,ethnic and gender
differences in France, The Netherlands and Germany ,Ridder print Offsetdrukkerij
Moghaddam is a PhD candidate at FU Berlin in the field
of gender studies and has been a guest scholars researcher at VU Amsterdam
from February 2015 till August 2016. She has been an active member of
Iranian women’s movement and has set up various associations, groups and
committees to empower women on issues of peace, environment, health and
gender. She has published numerous articles, participated in conferences,
seminars and international gatherings, where she has presented papers
on women’s issues. Her PhD research is about the role of new
media on women’s movement in Iran. email:(firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a clear case ,that women are fighting for the emancipation of
the veil. See also:
Ershad patrols set up mobile morality checkpoints to check
for "immoral behavior" women wearing and makeup or failing
to cover their heads,and men wearing clothing or hairstyles with
Western influence, or unmarried men and women traveling together are a
few examples. The Ershad can issue warnings, demand formal written statements
of "repentance," or arrest and prosecute people at their discretion.
 The grassroots of the party's right-wing tendencies include the whole range of Islamists, Islamist reformists, conservatives, nationalist. Current founders and senior members of the party were students of Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the Islamist parties.
Reviewed April 29th 2016
who fight for freedom to choose the type of clothes wrote in the stealthy
liberation campaign “What you did by covering up the aforementioned artwork
might be perceived as “respecting” the Iranian culture by Iran’s rulers.
However, have you ever thought about how it is perceived by millions of
Iranian women who have been bearing the brunt of these discriminatory
laws? Iranian social media has actually been exploding with comments critical
of the Italians’ action of covering up their artwork. This action has
actually greatly offended millions of Iranian women and many other Iranians
who have been risking their lives to change the existing discriminatory
laws in the country. In our country, not thinking the same as our rulers
can land people in jail, leading to executions in certain instances. In
our country, if a young blogger renounced his Islamic faith, he would
be sentenced to death. Those same rules of our country that you are purportedly
respecting can pave our citizens’ way for death for, say, changing your
religion from Islam to something else. Last year only there has been an
average of 3 executions by day. Would you respect this law in our country?
Do you realise that we have a government that refuses to respect the beliefs
of its own citizens while itself demanding respect on an international
études féministes/ estudos feministas