In a world in which universities apologize for serving Mexican food because doing so smacks of cultural appropriation and is deemed culturally insensitive, the student-organized “Wear a Hijab Day” at a Paris university was bound to cause controversy.
Although February 1st is the “official” World Hijab Day, these students were apparently not interested in waiting until early next year to express their “solidarity” with women who “choose” to wear the hijab; unfortunately for them, their gesture backfired.
Students at an elite Paris university sparked fierce debate on Wednesday by inviting classmates to wear the Muslim veil for a day in a bid to “demystify” a practice that is highly divisive in France.
Students at Sciences Po urged women to take part in Hijab Day “if you too think all women should have the right to dress as they wish and have their choice respected”.
A dozen students handed out flyers at the university by a table covered in colourful headscarves with a sign reading: “France got 99 problems but Hijab ain’t one”, adapted from a hit by US rapper Jay Z.
“It is to raise awareness, open the debate and give the floor to women who are often debated on in public but rarely heard,” said Laetitia, one of the organisers.
Despite their best intentions and because of their apparent lack of understanding of the consequences of failing to “choose” to wear a hijab in Muslim countries that stone women to death for appearing in public without one, however, the backlash has been swift and harsh.
Liberal feminists and secularism defenders, alarmed at what they saw as another attempt to impose a highly conservative interpretation of Islam on secular educational institutions, condemned the protest as an “insult” to women who are forced to wear hijabs in Iran and parts of the Arab-Muslim world. The extreme right National Front, meanwhile, tried to exploit the divisions to inflame racism.
. . . . Muslim reformers and journalists Asra Nomani, who has contributed to Women in the World, and Hala Arafa have implored women to stop sporting the hijab as a sign of religious solidarity. They say conservative Islamists and regimes like Saudi Arabia, Taliban Afghanistan, Iran and Islamic State are trying to impose the veil as a “sixth pillar of Islam” when there is no Koranic requirement it be worn, and when the word “hijab” doesn’t even mean headscarf in Arabic but curtain, hiding, obstructing or isolating.
With the recent terror attacks in France and the influx of refugees, France is facing a crisis and is uncertain how to address it.
Islamic head coverings have long been a highly contentious political issue in France, which has some of the hardest-hitting legislation on headscarves in Europe. In 2004 it banned girls from wearing headscarves in state schools, along with other religious symbols such as crosses or turbans.
In 2011, Sarkozy banned the niqab (a full-face Muslim veil) from all public places. State workers in the public service must by law be impartial and neutral, and so cannot show their religious belief with an outward symbol such as a headscarf.
In December last year, the French national consulting body, the Observatory of Secularism, found it would be “neither useful, nor appropriate” to legislate on the wearing of religious symbols – including headscarves – at universities.
The debate about hijabs has been highlighted in North America with regards to court appearances and identification cards such as drivers’ licenses, and in 2014, a Canadian college student donned the hijab to prove that she was treated with racism and hostility when wearing the veil. She was shocked and horrified to learn that she was actually treated better and with deference when her head was covered as directed by Sharia law.
The Daily Mail reported at the time:
According to Rawhani – who conducted the experiment to see if people in her community were racist towards minority groups – she noticed that people actually treated her more kindly and with more respect than when she didn’t wear the hijab.
. . . . At first I thought I was just imagining things. There’s no way this is actually happening,’ Rawhani told the Whig.com.
‘I went with my hijab and people were very nice, people were polite, parents would shake my hand, so the experience was all across the board in Kingston.’
In some cases, she says, she would go out with friends who weren’t wearing any identifying religious symbols and she was treated much nicer than they were.
‘There was this excess (of niceness) that I would experience that I couldn’t account for,’ she said. ‘Like really going the extra mile like smiling broadly and being so so polite, which I’ve never experienced before. It was a stark contrast that was going on that threw me for a loop.’
Ultimately, she concluded that people were nicer to her when she wore the hijab because they are racists who were “overcompensating” to hide their racism.
College is supposed to be a time when students are exposed to ideas that challenge them, and if wearing a hijab to show “solidarity” or to shine a light on (non-existent) racism challenges the progressive agenda they are spoon-fed in today’s Western universities, I ‘m all for it.
I suspect—or at least hope—that as these students get a bit older and look back on these experiments in “diversity” they will be a bit embarrassed by, even sheepish about, the cultural arrogance that is required to force their inchoate understanding of the world on others.DONATE
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