If Hajer Al-Faham was really harassed for wearing the hijab, that is a shame. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior. But women wearing hijabs are a quite common sight in American cities now. As I travel and when I am at home, I see women wearing hijabs pretty much every day, in airports, on the streets, in shops, etc. No one seems to be bothering them, and they don’t seem to be moving about with the caution and fear that one might expect from people who routinely suffer harassment. Maybe all the creeps and louts fixate on Hajer Al-Faham in particular — but are there really that many racist, bigoted “Islamophobes” at Cornell University or her home town, the Leftist bastion of Everett, Washington? There are, in short, numerous reasons to be skeptical of her claims here.
Moreover, when we’re talking harassment and concern for one’s safety, what about the women who don’t wear hijab? Should Aqsa Parvez, whose Muslim father choked her to death with her hijab after she refused to wear it, have just worn the hijab out of concern for her safety? Then there is Amina Muse Ali, a Christian woman in Somalia whom Muslims murdered because she wasn’t wearing a hijab; and the 40 women who were murdered in Iraq in 2007 for not wearing the hijab; and Alya Al-Safar, whose Muslim cousin threatened to kill her and harm her family because she stopped wearing the hijab in Britain; and Amira Osman Hamid, who faces whipping in Sudan for refusing to wear the hijab; and the Egyptian girl, also named Amira, who committed suicide after being brutalized for her family for refusing to wear the hijab; and the Muslim and non-Muslim teachers at the Islamic College of South Australia who were told that they had to wear the hijab or be fired; and the women in Chechnya whom police shot with paintballs because they weren’t wearing hijab; and the women also in Chechnya who were threatened by men with automatic rifles for not wearing hijab; and the elementary school teachers in Tunisia who were threatened with death for not wearing hijab; and the Syrian schoolgirls who were forbidden to go to school unless they wore hijab; and the women in Gaza whom Hamas has forced to wear hijab; and the women in Iran who protested against the regime by daring to take off their legally-required hijab; and the women in London whom Muslim thugs threatened to murder if they didn’t wear hijab; and the anonymous young Muslim woman who doffed her hijab outside her home and started living a double life in fear of her parents, and all the other women and girls who have been killed or threatened, or who live in fear for daring not to wear the hijab.
Who is speaking against against the threats to their safety? Women who don’t wear hijab in Muslim countries are far more likely to be victims of violence than hijabis in the West. Who speaks for them?
“Why I stopped wearing the hijab,” by Hajer Al-Faham, Seattle Times, February 19, 2016 (thanks to all who sent this in):
…This year, for the first time, I felt compelled to stop wearing my hijab out of concern for my safety. In the midst of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaigns, I have experienced an unprecedented degree of anti-Muslim hostility. The statements made by Donald Trump, in particular, encouraging the shutdown of mosques and the development of a database to track Muslim Americans have direct consequences for people like me. Over the course of the past few months, Muslim women in my social circle have been assaulted, mosques and Sikh temples have been defaced and Arab Americans have faced intensified and unwarranted surveillance.
Practicing the hijab has never been easy. As the most visible symbol of Islam, the hijab occupies a provocative position in discussions of multiculturalism and tolerance in the United States. But when I wore the hijab, I was not motivated by politics, but by a desire to experience my faith on a deeper level.
Even when the challenges of being Muslim and Arab in the United States grew after 9/11, I did not succumb to the pressure to try to pass as non-Muslim and non-Arab. In fact, the prevalent ignorance of my cultural and faith background motivated me to volunteer in community-outreach activities with the hope of dispelling stereotypes.
But this year has been different. The environment that I and many other Muslims navigate has become increasingly perilous, to the extent that I and other Muslim women have to choose between our safety and our freedom of religion.
While I, setting the hijab aside, am able to pass as non-Muslim or ambiguously ethnic because of my light skin, my father, sisters and others in my community cannot. Their appearance marks them as people of color and targets for violence and discrimination.
My purpose in writing is not to encourage limitations on speech — even if that speech is designed to set apart my community. Rather, it is my hope that readers will reflect on our political climate and resist the inclination to be passive onlookers as the welfare of Muslims, immigrants, and communities of color is compromised by violence that is legitimized by racist political speech.