The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Quote Of The Day

Posted by Lee on June 26, 2008

“I am sick and tired of people referring to the hijab debate when speaking about being an Islamic woman. Get over it! It’s just a piece of material.”

Susan Carland, Salam Café panellist, Monash University lecturer, mother of two and 2004 “Muslim of the Year”.

Interesting how the argument is frequently played out in public (and by many feminists too I might add) that women who wear a hijab are seen as doing so by force or fear of religious or cultural persecution should they choose to not adhere to the scarf.

The hysterical ranting about the erosion of the rights of our sisters by a misogynistic and secular practice depicted in the Qur’an is, in my view, very often completely misguided and reeking of authoritarian hypocrisy.

Just as women have the right to seek out equal pay, equal work opportunities, equal access to the television remote control; is it not our Muslim lady-friends right too to have equal say in how they wish to express their religious freedoms?

Why preach of female liberties when neglecting to take into account that the vast majority of Muslim women choose to wear the hijab for their own cultural purposes? Many Muslim women who practice the hijab feel that it liberates them from body-image stereotyping and allows them to be closer to the truer version of themselves where they are valued for their intellect, social and family contributions and not on how they look.

The broader problems of the Muslim world are not the issue when it comes to the hijab. When individuals are indiscriminately denied the opportunity or are challenged on their reasons to identify with their own culture in wearing the hijab, it only illuminates the critics clear lack of objectivity and abilities to disassociate themselves from the imagery that they feel the hijab represents.

And while I will not even consider getting into the debate about the prominent Mufti who made the incredibly offensive claims about un-veiled women and uncovered meat; for every Sheikh Hilali you present me to lambast about being anti-female, I will raise you 5 Wayne Careys and ask you if you enjoy watching the football. Same-same.

If you ask me, (which if you are still reading this means that you are probably seeking a point somewhere about now), I am far more terrified of the anti-Muslim sentiment associated with this religio-political squabble than of any damage a silky piece of coloured fabric can do to me.

If the practice of wearing the hijab only involves the individual and causes no harm to others, I really don’t see what the hub-bub is all about. It is not my place to question whether another woman wants to wear something that I myself would choose not to; regardless of what may be my Qur’anic interpretation of womens rights.

Truly, if it’s a head-gear fashion issue, I should be the one pilloried and shredded for crimes to humanity. I once used to wear a snood for Pete’s sake! A SNOOD! Oh, the horror.

The way Mark Twain saw it was so much simpler in terms of defining why clothes are good. He said:

“Clothes make the (wo)man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”

Please do enjoy this feature presentation on the many lovely styles of wearing the hijab. I would think it would help combat bad hair days too.

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7 Responses to “Quote Of The Day”

  1. Rhiana said

    The removal of the hijab to ‘liberate’ Muslim women has been used since colonial days, when colonialists appropriated the discourse of feminism to further their own prejudices and political aims – killing the political will of Muslim men.
    We’re still doing it now. There is a great (reeks of ‘othering’) Laura Bush quote from back in 2001 used to help rally public support for the invasion of Afghanistan… I will try and find it after work today. Plus I have some great article/book references on this topic if anyone is interested in reading more on this topic.

  2. Barefoot Warrior said

    Some great points… just one little correct: it’s Susan, not Sarah :)

    I agree with Rhianna; and I’m so sick of those arrogant French ‘feminists’ who argued for the banning of the hijab in French school… as AMAZING as it might sound to us westerners, some muslim women actually feel EMPOWERED by their traditional dress…

    Shouldn’t we encourage them to be able to make up their own minds? Susan Carland is no shrinking violet, and she embraces her own faith HER way…

  3. Meils said

    “Why preach of female liberties when neglecting to take into account that the vast majority of Muslim women choose to wear the hijab for their own cultural purposes?”

    I suppose the real question for me is that of culture versus “freedom”. I personally question whether an individual’s choice to wear hijab CAN be separated from background influences and expectations of community. This is especially applicable in situations where an enclave precedent is maintained in part through the intolerance towards diversity displayed by some vocal parts of the mainstream, and visa versa.

    However, choices made by women within circumstances which many others may view as restrictive are not by any means limited to those of the Muslim faith. What about women from Christian backgrounds who choose not to live with their husbands before marriage because it’s “not the done thing” in their communities? Or even women from rural Australian backgrounds whose career choice is to stay at home on the farm and raise a family? These women also attract the derision of some for making what is perceived to be an anti-feminist choice.

    If it is just a piece of cloth, at the end of the day, it’s not harming anyone, and indeed could be a good choice for Australia’s summer climate if one was sun-smart inclined! Consider the hijab the one-piece equivalent to your snood’s bikini! Whether a woman is pressured to cover up or not is really a symptom rather than a cause, and in such circumstances the individual’s decision to comply with expectations or challenge them should be respected.

  4. Lee Sandwith said

    Oh dear! I knew that her name was Susan all along. How on earth did I write her name as Sarah? Thank you for the correction Barefoot Warrior. I humbly and sincerely stand corrected.

    Hello Meils. How right you are.

    In the traditional Order of Roman Catholicism, if you are a devout female follower who has chosen to sacrifice your “freedoms” to service the Lord, then you are required by Gospel as well as Cannon Law to wear the Christian faiths very own version of the hijab (a habit).

    Why is it that we don’t hear weighty objections clogging the airwaves of afternoon talkback radio about the cultural and community expectation of nuns to continue wearing the habit verses their personal choice to shun the penguin look and let the breeze flow through their hair?

    Respecting the choice for whatever reason the individual accepts or expects of themselves should be paramount in this case.

  5. jessica said

    Personally i think defending the hijab is bullshit. As if it’s “just” a piece of material. It isnt. It’s what that piece of material represents that’s the issue.

    By wearing the hijab a woman is basically saying that all others who don’t are somehow “less than” those who do. Of course that’s not what they’re actually word for word saying but that’s what their decision implies.

    I think it’s important to look at the root of why women choose to wear the hijab. And i have a feeling the reason varies from woman to woman 9duh) but it’s the “because i want to be taken seriously and be respected” reason and the “because i’m just so fucking hot i have to cover myself up because otherwise men can’t resist themselves” that i have the most trouble with.

    That said, yeah, who cares whether they wear it or not. If they want to perpetuate nonsense then they can go for it. They wouldnt be the first.

  6. Meils said

    If only there’d been a Sister Act 3: God’s Own Gone Wild made. .. that’d make good copy.

  7. I also find it interesting that the hijab is, it often seems, the number one point of debate for Islamic women’s rights.

    From a completely removed perspective, I find the hijab to be the most ridiculous “liberation” westerners can claim to be fighting for. It is so often raised, so often held as an issue we need to pass judgement on.

    Any basic understanding of Islamic tradition and culture will offer a dozen more dangerous and pressing issues that *could* be a reason for external feminist (or general) outrage.

    Personally, I believe Islam in some forms offers a very supportive environment for women to flourish… just like any other culture. And, as in almost any other culture you can think of, in some radical elements it is used to opress women.

    The use of “let’s rescue those strange women from their strange and oppressive clothes” is a quite ridiculous representation of the superficiality of this “liberation” desire.

    Instead of showing a desire to assist women of all cultures, it shows that within our own culture we focus on issues that revolve around how women look, what they wear and our access to their bodies. And now, we’re prepared to worry about other women… but only in the same superficial ways.

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