It’s Not Hijab; Islamophobia is the Problem

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AGAINST ODDS...Emirati weightlifter Amna Al Hadad. Hijab is no obstruction for women like her.

LIBERATED…Emirati weightlifter Amna Al Haddad. Hijab is no obstruction for women like her.

Asra Nomani, Arafa, Ayaan Hirsi, and other Muslim bashers like Trump et al get so much air time to speak what would be considered extreme bias or hate crime if they were talking about African Americans or the LGTB community. While Nomani brings up the worst of the faith, she ignores some of its best examples. Instances such as US fencer, Ibithaj Muhammad and Emirati weightlifter Amna S. Al Haddad as well as political scientist Merve Kavakci and her sisters, Elif, a fashion designer, and Ravza, a member of the Turkish parliament, are all examples of women who wear hijab and are not the kicked-around, oppressed women she speaks of.

MARYAM ISMAIL | Special to Caravan Daily

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he saying ‘stick and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ has been proven false since the tragedy of 911. It has been through words of propaganda, repetitive images, and articles by Islamophobia specialists, Asra Nomani and Hala Arafa that are hitting more women in the head than any rock or baseball bat. Their latest tirade against hijab is selling like free apps on the Google store. They have fans and special friends in the mainstream media who share their fear of a simple piece of headgear, the hijab. Their words spark fear, instigate hatred against Muslim and heap up more oppression on hijab-wearing women than any specter of a manic Mullah.

At first, it was their, As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the hijab in the name of interfaith solidarity piece in the Washington Post.

Then it was a spot on National Public Radio, arguing again against hijab, and now they are at it again with a New York Times piece, claiming that hijab is a misguided form of oppression done in the name of political Islam. The hidden subtext of this article is a personal vendetta against women who wear hijab, especially as they are gaining presence within the American public sphere-from the Oscars to Master Chef, women in hijab are everywhere.

But now, after fifteen years of battles between the Islamophobe brigades led by Asra Nomani and the Muslim interfaith Dawah of many Muslims who thought singing What a Friend I have in Jesus could convince non-Muslims that they both worship the same god. However, the recent firing of Dr. Larycia Hawkins who wore a hijab and claimed that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, clearly shows that not the Christians at her college, aren’t buying it.

Ironically, Wheaton College and Hawkins are clear on their faith and its non-negotiables. They are Christians who want to live up to Jesus’ model. The Trinitarian Jesus, not Allah’s Isa ibn Maryam. Sadly, many Muslims have misunderstood this. If they had stood their ground on their faith, say like the Dalai Lama, they would have gained their due respect. Yet instead of making things better, things are getting worse.

Like why the mainstream media news hosts cannot come up with better or right pronunciation of Muslim names and places? Why not a better set of questions as to the root cause of the extreme fear of American Muslims and how to protect them from getting harassed, attacked, or killed.

I find it so funny that people like Nomani, Arafa, Ayaan Hirsi, and other Muslim bashers like Trump et al get so much air time to speak what would be considered extreme bias or hate crime if they were talking about African Americans or the LGTB community.

Emirati weightlifter Amna Al Hadad
Emirati weightlifter Amna Al Hadad

It boggles my mind that Trump is not only still standing free and easy, but he is a frontrunner for the American presidency. It was rhetoric like this that made me leave America.

Nomani’s conjuring up the spooky, oppressed Muslim theme is craftily put together in the wake of Trump’s tirade against everyday Muslim women. Which prompted some non-Muslim women to wear hijab in solidarity and this seems to throw a wrench in the works of Nomani’s so-called Muslim reform movement.

The movement purports to be what Yiddish author Shalom Aleichem’s stories and plays did for the American Jewish community and pushed them from an insular community to creators of a new mainstream American identity, one in which Jewishness is hidden by outward appearances and near total assimilation, letting just a few choice traits survive. What Nomani and her co-author Wafa Arafa do not get is that Muslims are different; they are holding fast to their faith and unlike Judaism, anyone who wants to convert to Islam can do so anytime. This is probably their biggest fear.

While Nomani brings up the worst of the faith, she ignores some of its best examples. Instances such as US fencer, Ibithaj Muhammad and Emirati weightlifter Amna S. Al Haddad as well as political scientist Merve Kavakci and her sisters, Elif, a fashion designer, and Ravza, a member of the Turkish parliament, are all examples of women who wear hijab and are not the kicked-around, oppressed women she speaks of.

US fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad
US fencer Ibithaj Muhammad also sports hijab

Nomani and Arafa call themselves ‘mainstream Muslims’ — a sort of cross over like from Rap to Pop music. But looking at the comments, that often follow their articles, most of their readers seem to have special hatred for Muslims, proving that they may be just part of the mainstream more than they are Muslim.

Westerners who smile at the hijab as a token of multicultural benefit would do well to ask what they value most highly: absolute tolerance or allowing women to walk in public wearing a symbol of a form of oppression they would not tolerate for a moment in their own culture.” –Denis MacEoin

Hijab IS rape culture. Seriously. Saudi Arabia has literally spent over 1 billion dollars brainwashing people on this one issue- that women must be veiled. –Nina D

These quotes prove that asking women not to wear hijab will do more harm to Muslim women in the US than anything that happens 7,000 miles away in the Middle East. They remind me of their kids on the playground who agitate fights for fun. Yet, unlike what seems like harmless pushing and shoving, the repercussions of their words and actions have deadly consequences.

A Muslim American student at an Islamic Center of America event in Dearborn, Michigan.
A Muslim American student at an Islamic Center of America event in Dearborn, Michigan.

Living in the US when the planes hit the World Trade Center, we had to face the same worried, erroneously informed neighbors, coworkers, and false friends, who began to single us out as Muslims. Soon, it became so difficult for my husband and I that we chose to leave America till things got better.

That was in 2002 and we are still waiting. This self-imposed exile is hardest on my children who dream of growing up seeing the luxurious beauty of their homeland and living in a place where they are not strangers. I wish the same for myself. So far it has been quite difficult.

Back in 2002, when I entered my new job at Union County College, in Elizabeth, NJ, class for the first time, dressed in a hijab and abayah, my ESL students told the dean of the education, “We don’t want a Muslim teaching us.” That evening, I got an angry phone call from the woman who was my BFF just the night before asking why I had not informed her that I was a Muslim.

Since moving to the United Arab Emirates in 2002, I have only been to the US twice, once in 2008 and just this September. I was still wearing a hijab and an abaya, but I have to admit, that things were better. People were friendly and treated me pretty normal as long as I stayed within my hometown of Newark, New Jersey and New York City.

That was until the Trump started his tirade against Muslims. Now, living in the US must be like being stuck in an episode of Z Nation where an Islamophobia-inducing zombie virus is a creeping epidemic, where Trump’s words have sounded the alarm for self-anointed reformers of Islam like Nomani and Arafa to creep back out of their dark corners to infect as many people as possible.

“Please don’t support oppression,” laments Asra Nomani and her silent co-writer, Hala Arafa. This is their stance on non-Muslim women who stand in solidarity with hijabi women such as Dr. Larycia Hawkins who was suspended for wearing hijab in the classroom. Hawkins’ suspension and now the push for her resignation is what many hijabi women experience all across the US. And just like Wheaton’s statement, doesn’t directly state she will be fired, they are offering her the chance to voluntarily resign.

If anyone should voluntarily resign, it’s Nomani and other women who profit from creating hysteria around hijab and Islam. They claim to be feminists looking out for women’s rights but who asked them to do so? It might be better if they just sit down and shut up. This would stop many Muslim women from getting harassed, hurt, fired, or even killed.

Maryam Ismail is an American sociologist turned journalist living in the United Arab Emirates She can be reached at maryam@journalist.com

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