Hijab doesn't define women
TheStar.com - comment - Hijab doesn't define women
July 05, 2007
Women held back in societies with hijab
Letter, July 3
I, for one, have had it with the dubious Western fixation on the hijab. I think some people with latent anti-Muslim sentiments find it convenient to argue that Islam, typified by the hijab, is backward and misogynist. These people are not fooling anyone, no matter how articulate or "intellectual" their arguments are.
The fact is, the hijab neither raises women's status nor lowers it. A woman wearing a hijab can be as pre-eminent as former heads of state Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan and Hasina Wajid in Bangladesh, or as unremarkable as a sex worker.
Islam prescribes head covers for women, just as the Judeo-Christian tradition does. For example, 1 Corinthians 11:6 says: "If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or shaved off, she should cover her head."
We can argue that religions – all religions – are phallocentric, backward and dated. Perhaps it's a question of interpretation. We can argue that Muslim nations need to be like the West, secular. But to target the Muslim hijab tradition obsessively is pitiful and low.
Those who genuinely care about the welfare of women in Muslim countries would be better off arguing for cultural reform, projecting the notions of egalitarianism, equity, education and development.
Baha Abushaqra, London, Ont.
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