Dealing with the Islamic hijab and international consequences

Islamic hijab is a matter arising from the Quran and Islamic jurisprudence, and it is especially recommended for women in Islam. Of course, hijab is sometimes derived from Sharia rules and sometimes related to social laws. Throughout history, hijab has been used in Muslim societies, not in a legal sense, but more in a moral sense. However, in the contemporary era, hijab or the prohibition of hijab in societies is defined in the framework of civil laws.
21 August 2023
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Masoumeh Saif Afjehi

Islamic hijab is a matter arising from the Quran and Islamic jurisprudence, and it is especially recommended for women in Islam. Of course, hijab is sometimes derived from Sharia rules and sometimes related to social laws. Throughout history, hijab has been used in Muslim societies, not in a legal sense, but more in a moral sense. However, in the contemporary era, hijab or the prohibition of hijab in societies is defined in the framework of civil laws.

In the international aspect, the first day of February is called World Hijab Day. Although it is an informal occasion, however, it is held every year on February 1, equal to Bahman 12, in more than 100 countries of the world. World Hijab Day was founded for the first time in 2013 by the initiative of a Muslim woman of Bangladeshi origin living in the United States named Nazma Khan, who was the target of discrimination and insults because of wearing a hijab, since then, it has been held every year with the participation of more women around the world.

On this day, Muslim and hijab women define the hijab and its importance and function by holding cultural and artistic programs and organizing gatherings, and in some countries, non-Muslim women from different religions are asked to spend a day wearing the hijab and express their experience of wearing the hijab. The purpose of holding this day is to correct any misconceptions about the hijab and Muslim women in general, to counter Islamophobia, to promote chastity, and to convey to the women of the world that the hijab does not hinder social activity. 

Dealing with hijab in countries

With a majority Muslim population, Tunisia and Turkey were the only governments that prohibited the hijab in public schools, universities, and offices. In Syria, before 2010 and the beginning of the Arab Spring, covering the face mask was prohibited in the universities of this country. This restriction was removed during the unrest and the start of the civil war in Syria. On the other hand, in Islamic governments such as Morocco, there are restrictions on veiled women because they consider the hijab as proof of Islamic political thought or anti-secular government principles.

Covering, especially the head covering of a Muslim woman, has become a clear sign of the existence of Islam in Western Europe. This issue has caused political differences and suggestions regarding creating restrictions on hijab among a number of governments. Among other things, the Dutch parliament passed a law prohibiting face covering. Similar laws have been passed in France and Belgium. Other governments have similar laws or prohibitions on hijab. Some only include face coverings such as face masks and burqa, and some are related to clothes that have a sign of being Islamic.

On the other hand, in an extreme approach and against the anti-hijab positions, groups like the Taliban implemented the issue of burqa covering and women's lack of social activity in an extreme way; even the education of girls in primary schools has been prevented. 

The hijab as a tool of anti-Islamism

By examining the issue of Islamophobia in the Western world, which peaked after the September 11 incident, the hijab became a tool of anti-Islamism and raised sensitivities even more in Western countries so that women suffer the most damage from the issue of anti-Islamism.

In the growing trend of anti-Islamism in the West, in recent years, we have seen the introduction of new laws, insults to the Prophet of Islam (PBUH), and insults to sacred things, including the start of the Quran burning process in Europe. Among these, we can also mention confronting any religious signs, including the hijab.

As the number of Islamophobia and anti-Islamic attacks increase, the number of women who were the targets of these attacks increases. These attacks can be examined from 4 aspects in the Western world:

  1. Feminist currents consider hijab as an oppression of women and a violation of their rights.
  2. Negative views of Muslims have increased, especially after the terrorist attacks.
  3. Violence against women doubled on average, especially after the spread of Corona.
  4. Gaining power of extreme right-wing parties in the world whose central core of their thinking is anti-immigration.

 Looking at Iran from the perspective of the hijab

In Iran, the unveiling of the hijab is one of a series of events that took place following the approval of a law on January 8, 1936 in Iran, by which Iranian women and girls were prohibited from wearing veils, face masks, and headscarves. The Hijab Unveiling Law was the peak of the first Pahlavi policies in the field of clothing change, which began in 1928. These policies caused reactions, including the Goharshad mosque rebellion. The intensity of the propaganda against the hijab was so widespread that many religious women who were faced with the problem of prohibiting the use of the veil were isolated, and some of the women who had social activities stayed away from these activities. Because of this, at the request of scholars, the said law was canceled in 1944 during the second Pahlavi period. Thus, in Iran, the compulsion to unveil the hijab during the time of Pahlavi I, despite the strict laws that were observed in the country during the Reza Pahlavi period, did not come to fruition. The reason for this is due to the religious roots and Islamic culture among Iranian families. For this reason, women's participation and social presence in society decreased during that period.

The statistics show that even in the second Pahlavi period, Iranian girls were less determined to continue their academic educations or interested in working and participating in society. After the Islamic Revolution of Iran, girls' participation in continuing education increased from 25% in the 1970s to 60% in the 2010s. This desire is considered due to the social environment's suitability for women's presence in society.

In examining the anti-Iranian approach, we witnessed that immediately after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Iran had to defend the country for eight years. Since the effort to weaken Iran through the path of classical war did not end for the benefit of the Western world, before Iran could rebuild its economic situation in the post-war era, another war was imposed on Iran in the form of economic war Numerous and successive economic sanctions from both the United States and the European Union plagued the country. Sanctions that targeted not only the economy of the country but also the health of the society.

With Iran's resistance against sanctions, emphasis on self-sufficiency and resistance economy, and the failure of Western countries to knee Iran, the third war was designed and started: social war. This war started with the protest against the hijab law. Although for war planners, hijab has no meaning; it is considered the best tool for incitement to create social discord.

The question that can be raised in today's Iranian society is, which of the Iranian women have not achieved their desires with the hijab law in the Islamic Republic? Have they been prohibited from attending the university? Have they been prohibited from working in different jobs due to the observance of hijab? Have they been prohibited in the fields of sports, art, music, and normal daily activities, including obtaining a driver's license? None of them has hindered women's social growth in society. Even statistics show that the achievement of financial independence among women has increased after the Islamic Revolution.

Therefore, Iran, with a society with ethnic and linguistic diversity, has been able to be coherent and convergent with religious unity for many years. In this way, the root of negative propaganda and the blackening of Iran's face should be understood to create a bipolar environment and scenarios defined by foreigners.

Masoumeh Saif Afjehi, Manager of Human Rights and Women's Studies Department

(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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