July 2, 2014 By Amina Syed

Hijab and Stealthy Freedom: The Double Standard

Facebook Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women

Economist on the June 14th issue carried a story on “My Stealthy Freedom”, a social media campaign launched by an expat Iranian living in London. The campaign aims to ruffle the feather of religious orthodoxy by uploading in social media sites, including Facebook, images of women who don’t want to put on Hijab.

According to Economist, the social media campaign reflects the mindset of fashion-conscious Iranian households, where, though many women stay covered even at home in the presence of male relatives, millions of more liberal-minded ones fling off their veils as soon as they inside. This is in contravention of the ‘enforcement of “good hijab” by Iran’s morality police has become a lot less rigorous in recent years, as women have pushed the limits of what is legal. In some restaurants in the richer, more liberal neck of Tehran, female diners occasionally test the waiters’ resolve by discarding the veil completely.’

There is however a different picture altogether from this. There are women, who want to see hijab as part of their identity. Two small pro-hijab demonstrations took place in Tehran, with women in long black chadors holding placards that read “Hijab is our pride” and “Man, where is your dignity? Where is your wife’s hijab?”

The Facebook group of the campaign, which basks in 544.6K likes, carries ‘non-hijab pics’ of people with a comparatively lengthy caption in Persian-translated into English. The site invites women to post images of themselves, outside and unveiled.

One of the captions in the post goes: I don’t think any person, regardless of their gender, likes compulsion in any task. I too, like everyone else, am unhappy when forced to do anything. Surely, if I live long enough to see the day where I have a choice in hijab, I will be of those who will be rid of this mandated hijab.

Now, I would like to make a comment on this. Morality should not be policed at any cost. The concept and practice of morality police fly in the face of the much-cited Quranic verse: la Ikraaha fi ddeen. ‘There is no force in religion.’ This is because, Quran explains, guidance has been made clear from falsehood. Relevance and spiritual significance of religion and religious customs should be brought home to people. Those should not be inflicted on them. And at that point I agree with “My Stealthy Freedom Campaign, though I am a muhajjabeen myself.’

But I would make a discordant note, too. Can this campaign be named for those women who oppose headscarf ban in many European societies. Are there not women, including myself, who want to shout at the secular mullas against the severe proscription of headscarves. What if women stealthily celebrate their freedom in social media, donning their hijab and explaining the reason for doing so? Won’t it be their responsibility to save themselves from the attacks of conservatism, illiberalism and even terrorism?

Amina Syed teaches English in SN College, Cherthala, Kerala


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