Hijab – Are Campaigners Facing the Wrong Way?

Amid everything else that is going on in Iran at present, the country also lost its only female Olympic medallist. Kimia Alizadeh competed for her homeland in Taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics where she won a bronze medal. In a statement she cited the fact that she was forced to wear a hijab as one of the reasons behind her decision to defect.

If you are familiar with the recent history of the hijab in the west that last sentence is bound to strike you as a little strange (at least if you follow the party line). From Linda Sarsour channelling her inner-Obama on Women’s March posters to Nike bringing out a ‘sports hijab’, the dominant narrative seems to be that the hijab is somehow a symbol of female liberation. Given that the most common Islamic explanation behind the need for the hijab is that it protects women through reining in male sexual desire, the defence of this garment, by those who would normally loudly denounce any focus on the effect of female clothing on men as ‘slut shaming’, is bewildering to say the least. Then again, logical consistency has never been a hallmark of wokeness.

Perhaps the strangest expression of the hijabi cheerleading that exploded in most western countries over the past decade or so is #WorldHijabDay. On the 1st of February women around the world are encouraged to don the hijab for a day. One of the stated aims of this day, which is enthusiastically promoted on college campuses, is to promote the right of women to wear the hijab. Given that this right is enshrined in all western countries already (admittedly some ban the full-face veil), and that many reports where hijabs were pulled from Muslim women have been shown to be hoaxes, one struggles to see why this issue needs to be highlighted.

I strongly suspect that the bigger issue surrounding the hijab around the world is the fact that women, and often very young girls, are forced to wear it. This has been highlighted to me on several flights out of the Middle East where ladies around me got rid of their headscarfs almost as soon as the flight was airborne. Alizadeh’s protest is but the tip of the iceberg. In fact, over recent months Iran’s prisons were filled with women who defied the regime by taking off what they regarded as a hateful symbol of their subjugation.

This brings us to some vital questions: Will those behind #WorldHijabDay issue a statement in support of Alizadeh’s right NOT to wear the hijab? Will Linda Sarsour denounce the mullahs in Iran for their oppression of women who simply want to feel the wind in their hair? In Iran an image of a young lady holding her hijab on a stick, to symbolise her utter rejection of it, went viral. Will western feminists track her down to make sure that she tells her story on every single talk show out there?

Somehow, I’m not holding my breath.


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