I didn’t quite trust my eyes: while browsing the output of anti-Israel activists on Twitter, I came across a tweet shared and “liked” by hundreds of users (and re-tweeted by “progressive” anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal) that – as you can see in the screenshot below – compares a Christian nun with a woman wearing a hijab, i.e. the covering for the head and neck that is either mandatory for women or imposed by social pressure in most Muslim countries and societies.
Supposedly, this image had led to the suspension of a user who posted it on Facebook – and I’ll get back to this below. But let’s first consider the image that is cut in the tweet shown in the screenshot. When I checked out the full image on the Twitter account of the tagged user, i.e. @Resistance48, I saw that below the pictures of the nun (whose perfect make-up indicates that she’s not a real nun) and the hijab-covered Muslim woman there is the question “What’s the difference..?!” Above the picture, Abbas Hamideh aka @Resistance48 had answered the question: “The only difference is racism, bigotry and #Islamophobia.”
Well, no: the difference is that one picture shows a nun, i.e. a woman who dedicates her life to celibacy and service to her order and church – which nowadays very few Christian women do –, whereas the other picture shows a woman who wears the head- and neck covering that the vast majority of Muslim women chose, or are forced, to wear. It is very relevant in this context that the male counterpart to a nun, i.e. a monk, also has to follow a strict dress code, as required by his order. In stark contrast, Muslim men are generally free to wear whatever they please, with the exception of some particularly reactionary Muslim societies.
Equating the hijab with a nun’s head covering provides by far the best argument against the hijab I have ever encountered.
So it’s now apparently as politically correct as it can get to say: the Muslim hijab is just like a Christian nun’s head covering – it is meant to set the wearer apart from society, indicating a life that sacrifices individuality and sexuality in favor of selfless service.
There has been an often heated debate in western societies about what the hijab signifies, and perhaps the post as well as the related tweets were a response to a very interesting recent contribution to this debate authored by Asra Q. Nomani and Hala Arafa in the Washington Post. Both women firmly oppose supposedly well-meaning “interfaith” efforts that encourage non-Muslim women to show solidarity with Muslims by donning a hijab.
Nomani and Arafa also provide a fascinating glimpse of the history of the notion that Muslim women must demonstrate their “modesty,” religiosity and good character by covering their hair and neck. Interestingly, they point out that “Hijab’ literally means ‘curtain’ in Arabic. It also means ‘hiding,’ ‘obstructing’ and ‘isolating’ someone or something. It is never used in the Koran to mean headscarf.”
Could anything be more revealing than supposedly “progressive” people in the West promoting the hijab for Muslim women by equating it with a nun’s head covering and the renunciation of individuality and sexuality it implies?
But there’s more revealing stuff: as mentioned above, the image of the nun and the Muslim woman had first been posted by Abbas Hamideh, aka Twitter user @Resistance48, who claimed that his Facebook account had been suspended because of this post. In his Twitter bio, Hamideh describes himself as a “Palestinian Right of Return Activist.” He also mentions that he is a co-founder of Al-Awda, an organization that campaigns for the imaginary Palestinian “right of return.” Hamideh’s Twitter bio also includes the declaration “I don’t compromise on one inch of Palestinian land!” His Twitter handle @Resistance48 is a not so subtle hint that he opposes the existence of Israel.
Naturally, @Resistance48 couldn’t resist (pun intended) offering some explanations for the suspension of his Facebook account. The first was “@facebook succumbed to #Islamophobic @realDonaldTrump (#Trump) White Supremacist supporters & disabled my account.” A few minutes later, @Resistance48 realized that there must be another reason: “@facebook is just another racist Zionist supremacist tool. So far no trouble with @twitter when posting comparisons.”
But of course: who else but racist Zionist supremacists could object to equating nuns with Muslim women!!!
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Update: Here is another recent piece on the subject from Pakistan’s Nation (not to be confused with the “progressive” US Nation, which would be very unlikely to publish any criticism of dress codes for Muslim women). The author’s conclusion:
“The ‘freedom to wear what I choose’ argument is in fact an insidious dynamic of women sustaining the mullah directed patriarchal order of Muslim society, and treating those women who reject it as enemies of the correct and proper order of Muslim society.
One has to see objectively what the hijab, niqab, and burqa have come to signify. There [sic] are symbols of oppression of the unwilling, and the atrocities faced by Muslim women who don’t keep their “proper” place. When the Taliban got projected into our living rooms in the 90s with their stadium executions and thrashings of women in blue burqas, there was no doubt as to what was going on. With the advent of Wahabbism/Salafism across the Muslim world, the hijab is being enforced on girls as young as three.
So I find it very hard to accept the efforts of women in free countries to use the symbol of oppression as a means of showing solidarity. I can only label it as either ignorance of the Liberals of the West, or outright appeasment by the regressive Left of the backward, oppressive, misogynistic attitudes of Muslim society.
I am still unable to understand the desperate desire in the Western democratic Left to appease and coddle the most regressive aspects of the conservative Muslim right.”
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I saw only now that the image equating the nun with the hijab-covered Muslim woman was also posted on Facebook by Al-Awda, the “right of return” organization Hamideh co-founded. At the time of this writing, this post had garnered more than 500 “likes” and had been shared by more than 800 people.