Lamyaa’s exchange with her father has gone viral, trumpeted as evidence that women, specifically hijab-wearing women, are not oppressed and are wearing it, as Linda Sarsour and others insist, by their own choice. Lamyaa did receive some pushback, however, from people who pointed out that for many Muslim women, wearing the hijab is quite clearly not a choice. Lamyaa responded by defending Islam: “Women — in the Middle East specifically — face oppression but it is due to culture not religion.”
This is a common argument, but it is no more coherent for being common. It strains credulity beyond the breaking point to think that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of the Two Holy Places, which prides itself on enforcing Sharia in its fullness, would allow this cultural hangover that supposedly contradicts Islam to persist.
What’s more, Lamyaa’s father may be a generous soul, but he is not in the slightest degree representative of the Saudi position on women’s freedom to wear the hijab or not. Just last December, a Saudi woman was arrested for venturing out in public with her head uncovered; she also received numerous death threats from Saudi men who would heap contempt upon the idea that to wear or not wear the hijab is “no man’s decision to make.” No one in Saudi Arabia piped up at the time to remind authorities that the forced hijab was “cultural” and not “religious.”
And it is, in fact, religious. A hadith depicts Muhammad saying to a woman, “‘O Asma’, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this,’ and he pointed to her face and hands.” (Sunan Abu Dawud 4092)
When considered authentic by Islamic scholars, Muhammad’s words are normative for Islamic law.
BuzzFeed and the other establishment media outlets are thrilled that Lamyaa has struck back against President Trump and the “Islamophobes.” Great. And how infinitely greater it would have been if the claims that are being made on the basis of her father’s statements were even remotely true.
“After Someone Claimed This Teen’s Dad Would ‘Beat Her’ For Taking Off Her Hijab, She Texted Her Dad,” by Tanya Chen, BuzzFeed, April 17, 2017:
This is 17-year-old Lamyaa from Pennsylvania. Her dad is currently living in Saudi Arabia.
Lamyaa is a part of an active group chat started by one of her friends where the subject of President Trump and the tense political climate was brought up.
“I personally had very strong views [on Trump] considering the presidency did impact me because I am an Arab, Muslim woman,” she told BuzzFeed News.
When she identified herself as a Muslim woman, and criticized the president’s views on Islam, one person in the chat tried to shut her down aggressively. They claimed she should stop defending a faith that wouldn’t allow her to “take that scarf off or [her] dad would beat” her.
Lamyaa said there were mutual friends in the group chat she didn’t know, but she believed the mere fact she was Muslim set this person off.
“That guy didn’t feel comfortable so he said what he said,” Lamyaa suspected.
Lamyaa said she is more or less used to this kind of response from non-Muslim Americans, but she felt she needed to prove the person wrong. So she texted her dad in Saudi Arabia.