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Great Western debate: What’s cooking under the Muslim headscarf?

Catherine Shakdam
Catherine Shakdam
is the Yemen Unit Director for the Next Century Foundation (London). Formerly a consultant on Yemen for the UNSC, her writings and commentaries have appeared in major outlets, including RT, Al Jazeera, CGTN, Elaph and the BBC.
is the Yemen Unit Director for the Next Century Foundation (London). Formerly a consultant on Yemen for the UNSC, her writings and commentaries have appeared in major outlets, including RT, Al Jazeera, CGTN, Elaph and the BBC.
Great Western debate: What’s cooking under the Muslim headscarf?
'Lord forgive them for they do not know what they’re doing' … I wonder if this famous quote could apply to our modern-day great freak out over Muslim women and the headscarf. The audacity really! Why cover up when you could be free?

Free, however, is actually the point. If we are in fact living in the free and liberal societies that Western officials have been boasting about, then why hold a bit of clothing in such utter contempt?

Technically, a scarf actually qualifies as an accessory, so whether one prefers to wrap it around one’s head, neck, shoulders or ankle, I don’t quite see how one is making a political statement - never mind affirming the objectification of women.

Before liberals and secular-crazy Frenchmen come at me with their forks and their pikes, screaming republican apostasy, let me clear a few misconceptions (Yes, Prime Minister Manuel Valls, my sarcasm is directed at you, and your grand-standing bias). Why do women wear the headscarf? I’m referring here to the actual headscarf (also known as a hijab), not the face veil.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret: Muslim women wear the headscarf because they want to! I know what a shocker! Can you imagine? Muslim women being actually capable of making decisions for themselves… this is down-right revolutionary.

In all seriousness though, the overwhelming majority of Muslim women who do happen to cover their hair have chosen to do so because they feel it stands as a manifestation to both their faith, Islam, and the covenant they made with God – to abide by His rules on modesty. There is no hidden agenda, only a woman’s desire to live her faith the way she best sees fit, in accordance with the religious traditions which she identifies.

Before anyone remarks on the relevance of this religious rule, let me kindly remind you that whether or not you agree with what Islam commands is not the point. The point is that communities should be free to exercise their religious rights.

Now, although Muslim women are encouraged to cover their hair, and dress modestly, the headscarf is NOT, I repeat is NOT compulsory – not in the sense that it should ever be imposed. See, there is this crazy concept in Islam that in religion there could never be compulsion – in other words, men and women are inherently free to choose for themselves how they want to live their faith … or not for that matter.

If you look closely you will note that within the same Muslim family, some women will adorn the headscarf, while others will prefer to play it “liberal”. And who cares; I can tell you that the last thing Muslim women think about, or talk about, are their headscarves – or lack of. A scarf is just a scarf … so unless you are Mellissa Rivers hosting Fashion Police, let it be already!

Can we please gather our wits and once and for all leave the French to their psychosis? Scarves are not weapons, and they certainly are not signs of dangerous indoctrination. How exactly would that work anyway? Are Western officials suggesting that headscarves prevent blood flow to the brain, and thus could prompt psychotic episodes? Would a radical stop being a radical depending on his or her fashion of clothing?

What was it that the French Prime Minister said this April? “France should protect Muslims from extremism”, and that “a headscarf oppresses women and is not an object of fashion or consumption like any other." Valls’ reference to fashion was made to echo, and anchor Minister Laurence Rossignol’s statement on how headscarves are a mark of slavery which should be abolished and banned at once.

Certain French officials and many bigots around the world have systematically exploited the same argument - that the headscarf represents not only the enslavement of women, but asserts their inferiority and affirms their objectification. I’d like to know how! Are we actually linking a woman’s freedom, sense of worth, and status to the amount of clothing she chooses to wear? Is Prime Minister Valls suggesting then that a bikini-clad woman stands the epitome of emancipation? I hope not because that would be chauvinistic. Chauvinism is exactly what Muslim women face today – chauvinism and neo-colonial bias.

Now, I will grant you that Muslim women across the world have suffered, and continue to suffer great many injustices, but none of which are remotely linked to the headscarf. Forget Saudi Arabia, the Taliban or ISIL militants’ insane demands that women be made to disappear altogether under a black shroud, so they could deny their humanity. There is an entire universe in between a headscarf and a burka.

While a headscarf represents a Muslim woman’s declaration of faith to the world – just like a cross would for a Christian, a burka screams abuse and oppression. If you want to get angry at something, get angry at that. Millions of women today cower under the yoke of brutal men … and still we argue fashion correctness.

While Western officials will hold grand debates on the veil, arguing constitutional changes and bans, they have no qualms sitting across a table with those powers, which seek the factual enslavement of women.

In early January, Saudi Arabia aired a program on national television entitled: ‘How to properly beat your wife.’ I am not being funny here … a certified psychologist looked straight at the camera as he went about schooling men on how to “discipline” their wives.

So if you want to discuss radicalization, indoctrination and overall lunacy, look not at Muslim women and their preferred fashion, but those who still wield religion (Wahhabism) as a tool to enslave body and mind in order to raise tyrants over men.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.