Mahsa Amini’s Death and What “Bad Hijab” Really Means

Recently, never-before-seen images have appeared on the streets of Iran: large-eyed women defying the public key-cutting ritual; headscarves burned in the street amid thick smoke; ocean of anonymous protesters shouting together in a united song — all against the forced hijab law, now hidden behind the curtain government-imposed shutdown of the Internet.

Almost 20 years ago, during the height of the War on Terror, A Muslim schoolgirl in France did the same thing and openly shaved his head in front of an audience of protesters, international media, and press cameras, became global headlines in the pre-social media era.

Except, she’s protesting the right to wear it.

This is not contradictory. Muslim women across the East and West have been fighting for the same thing for decades: the right to choose.

Mahsa Amini, whose first name was Jhina of the Kurds, sparked nationwide protests when the 22-year-old died in police custody in Tehran on September 16. Amini was arrested and beaten. pounded by Iran’s “ethical police” – the government agency used to enforce the mandatory headscarf rule – for “bad headscarves” or what they perceive to be some form of inappropriate attire . While the “moral police” claims to be a spiritual authority, the fact that it is a government invention has no theological existence in Islam to manipulate religion to assert authority. control over people. In Iran, the ethical police use the hijab as a tool to narrow Iranian women out of public spaces, threatening women across the country to stay at home.

a woman talking while cutting her ponytail

Nasibe Samsaei, an Iranian woman living in Turkey, cuts her hair in a ponytail during a protest outside the Iranian consulate in Istanbul on September 21, 2022.

YASIN AKGUL//beautiful pictures

Although often considered a headscarf, hijab is the common concept of modesty applied to both men and women in the Muslim way of life. While the hijab is a physical practice of the headscarf, it is intended to apply to all aspects of one’s life — from your attitudes to your actions to your way of thinking. thoughts — for the purpose of promoting compassion and sanctifying personal autonomy. For example, the first requirement of the physical hijab is the Hadith of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, to “lower your gaze” – to set the sights on one’s personal actions first and above all, instead of blaming or interfering with someone else’s hijab. On a spiritual basis, the core of the headscarf is personal choice: the only “good headscarf” is the one with purpose; The only “bad hijab” is a forced one.

That’s why at the same time Iranian women are fighting with their lives for the right to take off the hijab, Indian women are fighting for their right to keep them on. This March, in the face of rising Hindu nationalism and widespread anti-Muslim violence, an Indian court favors a policy that allowed schools in the state of Karnataka to ban headscarves, inciting attacks on Indian Muslim women and girls. In 2021, Muslim women launch viral social network hashtags #HandsOffMyHijab after French officials voted Muslim women and girls are forbidden to wear the hijab in public.

a protester holds a sign that says hijab is our constitutional right

Indian Muslim students demonstrate against the ban on headscarves at several schools in the southern Indian state of Karnataka on March 24, 2022.

Anadolu Agency//beautiful pictures

The fact that the law forcing Muslim women to wear the hijab or remove them represents two sides of the same coin: controlling Muslim women’s right to choose. Hijab law has nothing to do with religion or secularism. At best, they are a form of state-sanctioned sexual harassment; At worst, they represent the systematic subjugation of Muslim women, no matter what society they exist in.

Mahsa Amini and countless others have lost their lives because of Iran’s hijab laws; Countless others are risking their lives by going out and expressing themselves on social media. But their fight for freedom is no exception. It’s time for us to have nuanced conversations around the hijab and how it is used as a tool and test of how we view Muslim women. The worst that can happen is that the world reacts to the bravery of Iranian women by using it to oppress Muslim women in other parts of the world under the guise of liberation.

As the United States grapples with the war for the female body in the form of abortion rights, it is clear that the desire to control women transcends religion, political ideology, and even cultural spheres. Now, Iranian women are drumming up women around the world to declare a revolutionary truth: Our bodies are based on our condition.


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