Australia and the Hijab

I found this article a fairly interesting treatment of the hijab in Australia. Of course, I wouldn’t be pointing it out if I didn’t have issues…

The author does a nice analysis of the major concerns around the hijab, and a couple of major points for wearing and not wearing it, even drawing a distinction between hijab and chador.

There are, I think, various reasons for not wearing the chador/burqa/niqab, but as is always the case. force should never be one of them. The idea of making non-Muslim girls wear a hijab in Muslim majority school district in England strikes me as absurd. Forcing a woman to wear or not wear clothing are both means of objectification and underscore the basic patriarchy of liberated and enlightened countries like France and repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia.

Where I disagree with the author is that the burqa is a symbol of female suppression:

In Western countries (when worn by women who are not being made to wear it by their fathers or husbands) the burqa is often an affectation too, but it is a dangerous one. What the burqa says, in the clearest possible way, is that men are not responsible for controlling men’s sexual urges, women are. Not only is there nothing remotely feminist about this idea, it is pretty insulting to men too.

I agree that this is an interpretation of what the burqa is, but I also think the author falls into the same trap that many people have made with regard to the hijab; the sense of female agency is removed. There are women who may believe the burqa is an article of faith, and they should not be prohibited from wearing it. There are public concerns which prevent her from participating in the public sphere if she so chooses, such as driving, but that is her choice.

The article is still one of the best I’ve read in a while in a newspaper.