Friday, October 03, 2003

Believe it: This woman was
arrested because she wants to
dress like this. This is Gul
Aslan of Turkey.
Hijab is a religious obligation in Islam. As such, it is not a cultural tradition, nor a political statement, but an aspect of Islamic religious belief. The right to freedom of religion is enshrined in the United States Constitution, and in the European Convention on Human Rights. It is recognized as one of the most fundamental liberties every human being is due. Perhaps to many from a Christian background, it seems as though freedom of religion is about freedom of thought or belief. But really, freedom of religion is about freedom of expression. I think there is great wisdom in that the two rights, free speech and freedom of religion, are put together in the First Amendment. The way I dress as a Muslim woman is an expression of my religious belief and as such should and must be protected as one of my basic human rights.

Unfortunately, Muslim women in many places around the world are being denied this basic freedom. There is so much, it almost seems to be hysteria, in the West about women in a few places who are being forced to wear hijab, and yet there is no attention being given to the women in many other places, including several Western countries (supposedly the great defenders of freedom and human rights) who are being forced to not wear hijab. People, it's the same issue. Both sides are trying to enforce a rule on how women may dress. Why is one a concern to you and not the other?

Some of the most ridiculous statements and some of the most utter garbage that I have ever read are in arguments that are used to justify anti-hijab discrimination. Sometimes I laugh incredulously at it, other times I am just left gasping. How is it that a simple piece of fabric on a woman's head, a square 40"x40", evokes such utter hysteria among some people? If I chose to dress in a bikini top and a micro-miniskirt that would be my right. If I chose to have a purple mohawk, cover myself with tattoos, or wear leather clothing with metal spikes, that would by my choice and my self-expression. But let me choose to fold a piece of fabric over my head and cover my body except my face and my hands and suddenly the rules have changed. Suddenly it becomes "a symbol of allegiance to fundamentalist Islam", "an ostentatious display of religion contrary to the secular nature of our society", and to many people it must be banned.

Sometimes, it makes me wonder just how committed we really are to religious freedom. Is it only some religions that one is free to practice? Is it only religions like Christianity that don't have rules about how to dress? Is it only for religions that are "socially acceptable"?

Who, precisely, is the Muslim hijabi woman harming? If she isn't hurting anyone except possibly herself then MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.


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