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Ban Hijab


By Ali Sina 
2007/12/18

On 11th of December, in Mississauga Canada, Aqsa, a 16 year old Canadian girl was choked to death by her Pakistani father, Muhammad Parvez, for not wearing hijab. “She wanted to live her life the way she wanted to, not the way her parents wanted her to,” her classmates told the reporters. “She just wanted to be herself, honestly she just wanted to show her beauty, and not be pushed around by her parents telling her what she has to be like, what she has to do. Nobody would want to do that.”

Yes, nobody would want to do that, but sadly many girls born in Islamic families are forced to do that.

One day after the death of Aqsa, I received an email from an 18 year old girl from UK. She said that she has been reading about Islam and had decided not to be a Muslim.  However, her Muslim parents force her to wear hijab and her sister told her that if their mother learns about her views, “she would either kill you or she’ll kill herself”.

I sent her the story of Aqsa and what her father did to her. She wrote back and said, “What an animal! I don’t think my mom cares about my beliefs, as long as I don’t have a boyfriend, [and don’t] take off my hijaab.”

The truth is that Aqsa’s father was not an animal either. He was just a devout Muslim, who had worked hard and had built a nice home for his family in an upscale neighborhood. He was an ideal immigrant, a real “success story.” However, he was a Muslim and as such he had no choice but to kill his daughter. He did what he had to do. As one friend wrote, “In a way there are two victims in this case. This man like any other father must have loved, nurtured and cared for his daughter for years. It is so unfortunate that he finds himself turned into a monster that ate his own progeny. What kind of ideology was it that turned a simple hard working family man into a revolting image of himself?”

What the westerners do not understand is that Muslims have different values, which are diametrically in contrast with Western values. Western societies are guilt based. In guilt based societies individuals base their conduct on “right” and “wrong”. They try to do the right thing and if they do something wrong, they feel guilty. Muslim societies are shame based. In shame based societies individuals base their conduct on the opinion of others about them. What really counts is to look good. In shame cultures, if you do something wrong, as long as no one sees it and knows about it, you are okay. You can keep your head high and act as an honorable member of the society. What matters is the image that you project of yourself. You must do everything to preserve that image. It is all about keeping the appearances.

In guilt societies, how you dress or don’t dress is your business. You can practice nudity and even promiscuity and have no shame. As long as you don’t violate someone else’s rights you can do whatever you like. This is inconceivable for Muslims who come from shame societies where everybody's life is the business of everybody else.   This is a fundamental difference that makes the western and Islamic cultures essentially incompatible. 

In a subsequent email my young British friend wrote, “My mom has noticed a change in me, ..and she said today, ‘I hope you haven’t done anything because so an so aunt will laugh.' Jesus! Who cares about so and so aunt who doesn’t even care about us?

This is the crux of the problem.  In Islamic societies people live in function of the opinion of others about them.  That is the only thing that really matters to them. Muhammad Parvez was devastated by the fact that his 16 year old daughter wanted to dress like her classmates and show off her beauty.  How could he look into the eyes of his Muslim friends with such a daughter?  Muslims call Western women “slut”. They honestly believe all Western women are whores, just because they do not cover themselves the way Muslim women do.  For Mr. Parvez, his daughter’s western clothing was a major source of shame and dishonor.  Shame induces anger and anger causes violence.  He had no choice but to kill her.  There is hardly anything for which we humans are willing to  kill for and even die for like for our honor. This is far truer in shame based societies, where guilt plays virtually no role and everything revolves around shame and honor.

Millions of girls living in Muslim families in the West are abused, beaten and face death by their own famileis, because of honor. Banaz Mahmoud, a 20-year-old Briton was tortured and strangled to death earlier this year by her father and brother.  Hatun Surucu, a 23 year old single mother, was gunned down by her brother in Germany.  Her family called her a “whore who wanted to live like a German.” The Italian Hina Saleem was 21 years old when her throat was slit by her Pakistani father and uncle because she dated an Italian man and refused to conform to an Islamic lifestyle.

Muslims in the West are becoming increasingly conservative and a growing number of women are being killed or mutilated in the name of ''family honor."  Helpless Muslim women are attacked, typically by their bothers, fathers, uncles and even mothers who are shamed by her Western style of life and dress.

There are hundreds of cases of honor killings in Europe . At least eight such slayings in Berlin alone in 2005. This is only the tip of the iceberg.  Most girls are brutally beaten and do not dare to complain or bring charges against their families. 

Don’t assume that the girls are the only victims. Their families are also victims. They are left with no choice, but to kill the apple of their own eyes.  Everyone in these tragedies is a victim.  It’s the government that is guilty!

The government is guilty for letting down its Muslim citizens and particularly its most vulnerable members, the Muslim girls.  There was no need for Aqsa to die.  If hijab was banned she would be alive today.  If hijab is banned, Muslims will not be embarrassed in front of fellow Muslims for the clothing of their daughters and won't have to act in such a brutal way to protect their honor.  Muslims hardy wear hijab or observe any Islamic custom when they live in places where there are few or no Muslims. Where there are no other Muslims, they do not feel pressured to show off their piety and as the result they are a lot more normal.  They start behaving Islamicly when they congregate together and build their shame based communities.

The 20th century Persian ruler, Reza Pahlavi, knew how to handle this problem.  He banned the chador (Iranian style of veil) in 1936.  He ordered the police to arrest woman wearing chador and forcibly remove it.  Although this policy outraged the mullahs, the average Iranians were relieved.  The ban allowed them to be free without having to deal with the burden of shame.  The historian Mir-Hosseini writes: “This move was welcomed by Westernized and upperclass men and women, who saw it in liberal terms as a first step in granting women their rights." She continues, 'between 1941 and 1979 wearing hejab [hijab] was no longer an offence, but it was a real hindrance to climbing the social ladder, a badge of backwardness and a marker of class. A headscarf, let alone the chador, prejudiced the chances of advancement in work and society not only of working women but also of men, who were increasingly expected to appear with their wives at social functions. Fashionable hotels and restaurants refused to admit women with chador, schools and universities actively discouraged the chador, although the headscarf was tolerated. It was common to see girls from traditional families, who had to leave home with the chador, arriving at school without it and then putting it on again on the way home'." (cited in El-Guindi 1999 pp. 174-175)

Despite his flaws, Reza Shah is hailed as the father of modern Persia by many Iranians because he banned the hijab and with that paved the way for equal rights for women.  He was a Muslim and was keenly aware of the Muslim mind.  He knew that only with the fist of the law Muslims can be rescued from their backward customs.  He broke down the power and prestige of the clergy, discarded the Islamic law, closed down Islamic madrassas, forbade religious processions, and replaced the Islamic calendar with the old Persian-Zoroastrian solar calendar.  He prohibited the Islamic call to prayer and discouraged the pilgrimage to Mecca.  He even forced the mullahs to shave their beards, take off their robe and engage in honorable and useful professions.  The majority of Iranians welcomed his reforms.  He was seen as a liberator.  He set Iran free from the oppression of the culture of shame.  It is this shame that inhibits Muslims to take the first step and stand out of the crowd.  It is because of this shame that no reform can ever happen in Islamic societies, unless it is imposed on them by force. The reform minded politicians in Islamic countries know that. The Western politicians should know it too.  

Western governments have a duty towards their Muslim citizens and particularly their women that traditionally have been the most disadvantaged members of Islamic societies.  If hijab was banned in Canada Aqsa would be alive today and a hard working good father would not have had to choose between his daughter and his honor.  The Canadian government failed both Aqsa and her father.

There are millions of Muslim families in Western countries who share Parvezs' predicament. The girls in these families are under greater pressure and bigger threats than those living in Islamic countries.  In Islamic countries everyone wears the same clothing.  It is much easier for Muslim girls to conform and comply there than it is  in the West where they are forced to be different.  Western governments owe these girls protection.

Aqsa, Banaz, Hatun and Hina are dead.  Their beauty will be devoured by their cold graves.  Isn't it the responsibility of lawmakers to protect other potential victims of this Islamic misogynistic culture? 

We must ban hijab, save innocent lives, end this abuse, and absolve poor Muslim parents from having to make such difficult choices.  Muslim parents are not monsters. They are torn apart between the love of their children and their honor.  Only the government can relieve them from that burden.  The only people who would not welcome this ban will be the mullahs who will see their power reduced and who use hijab as an instrument of segregation.  The average Muslims will be grateful and relieved, even though, to keep the appearances, they may publicly decry the decision.  That is all the show, to feign piety. 

Now that Muslims are living in the West in such a large numbers, Western politicians must make an extra effort to understand the Muslim mind.  Only the hand of the law can put an end to this culture of shame and help Muslims to integrate.  There is no need to force Muslim women to remove their hijab, like the Iranian police did during the rule of Reza Shah, but we can prohibit its use in schools, businesses, government offices and in public transportation. 

Hijab is an impediment to integration.  It is misogynistic, oppressive and draconian. It is demeaning to women because it regards them as nothing more than sexual objects - walking private parts that have to be covered lest they may arouse sexual feeling in men.  It is also an insult to men because it presupposes they are perverts, incapable of containing their sexual urges and who are easily exited by the sight of female skin. Hijab is an insult to all mankind. It segregates Muslims, it oppresses their women, and it kills.  Hijab is the sign of barbarity. Civilized societies should not tolerate it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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