Updated on the 28th September 2022: On February 2nd of this year, I wrote this essay after a French publication shared their stamp of approval to a western woman wearing a headscarf, albeit the fact that their government had banned the use of the headscarf being worn as a hijab. It saddens me to see that months later, in another part of the world, Muslim women are still fighting for their freedom of expression: whether that means they choose to wear the hijab or not. After the tragic passing of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year old Iranian woman who was detained and beaten by the country’s Morality Police last week, it is clear to me that women, and in particular Muslim women, have to fight harder than most to have their voices heard. Whether you are detained for wearing the hijab in France or India, or punished by death for not wearing the hijab in Iran, your fight is the same. Muslim women, regardless of where they are from or what they choose to wear, share the same struggle: the bare minimum right and essential choice of choosing what to do with their hair, bodies and lives. It is unfortunate that months later, I must look back in time and see little change, and yet that does not mean we will not keep advocating and fighting for the rights of women, Muslim women, to be free. After reading the below essay, I hope we can come together to pray that Mahsa’s death will at least, become the awakening that many need.
It’s not easy being a woman anywhere in the world, but to be a Muslim woman comes as a struggle of its own. No matter what we decide to do or who we decide to be, we are discriminated. From what we wear to what we do for a living: eyes are always gawking on us and we can’t seem to please anyone. If a Muslim woman decides to wear a hijab, she automatically becomes the victim of prejudice. If she doesn’t, she could just as easily be prejudiced for it too. If a Muslim woman opts for being a stay-at-home mother, she’ll be blamed for being too domestic. If she’s career-driven, she’ll be called out for doing a man’s job. It seems as though Muslim women just can’t get a break, and the most recent proof of that is Vogue France‘s ironic Instagram post, praising a non-hijabi, non-Muslim, white woman for wearing a headscarf: Julia Fox.
Since publishing the post, the account has edited the initial caption, which read, “Yes to the headscarf!” This comes as no surprise, considering the amount of backlash that the magazine has witnessed in the last week.
You may be asking why Muslim women around the world are furious, when an international publication like Vogue is approving an item that many of us wear. The reason their post is so problematic is that for years, Muslim and particularly hijabi women have been victimised to discrimination and intolerance in France, simply because of their faith.
“On March 30, 2021, the French senate passed an amendment prohibiting girls under the age of 18 from wearing hijabs in public. It is part of the ‘anti-separatism’ bill, which specifically calls for the “prohibition in the public space of any conspicuous religious sign by minors and of any dress or clothing which would signify inferiority of women over men,” and also includes an amendment that would ban the body-covering burqini swimsuit at public pools and beaches,” as social media watchdog Diet Prada pointed out. And yet, this is not the first and probably not the last time that Muslim women have been subjected to bigotry in the country.
The irony of Vogue France‘s post, is their quick glorification and stamp-of-approval when a celebrity like Julia Fox wears a headscarf, whereas if it were worn by a Muslim women, not only would it not be acclaimed as a ‘trend,’ yet the woman would receive backlash and face the consequences of simply practicing her faith in a country like France. It seems as though Vogue France will only say ‘yes to the headscarf’ depending on who’s wearing it.
In my opinion, the real irony is that we Muslim women will decide what we wear, who we are and what we do, without seeking for any Western validation. The reason is that we do not want nor need anyone’s approval, whether that be a publication or any government for that matter. Whether a Muslim woman decides to wear a hijab or not, she should be entitled to make her own decision.