Here's what official Islamic State “wear a hijab, or else, ladies” paperwork looks like

You know, I’ve read many snarky comments and a few articles that indicate the hijab is the zenith of oppression. But just once I read an article by a woman who wears one daily to her university classes. She reported feeling it was liberating because instead of staring at her boobs, it forced the men to listen to her words.

I feel like it’s a good time to repost this:

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Except it doesn’t. They’re still staring at her, thinking about her, and interrupting her when she speaks. She just doesn’t know which body part they’re fantasizing about. That’s not much of an improvement.

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Hey don’t blame me, just an article I read. Maybe it was planted by an Agent of the Patriarchy.

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No, I’ve read similar articles, and I believe the women who say these things truly think so. But look at the underlying problem: it’s still about what does a woman have to do to be able to walk down the street, learn in a classroom, etc. You’re not really free or equal simply because you’ve accepted the arguments of one set of fashion police over another.


It isn’t. It’s hyperbole that is entirely a function of visibility. You can see it, ergo it must be the most important thing. Islamic State douchefuckingtasticness notwithstanding, I find the Western fascination with it to be weirdly unhealthy. It’s become symbolic, but in itself whether a woman covers her hair is less of an issue than say, whether she gets to make her own healthcare decisions, or get an education, or a job. With the exception of the Islamic State, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, most countries in the Middle East are much more relaxed on this issue. There’s a nice healthy heaping helping of social pressure in a lot of cases. Still, the way this dynamic is often described in Western media, almost to the exclusion of all other dynamics that affect women, and with a certain shallowness, is oddly unsettling.

Especially because it is so often posed as a dichotomy, or a catastrophic evil. Google “should the hijab be banned” to get an idea of this. I think a lot of Muslim women, regardless of their personal feelings on the subject, are rightly suspicious of people who are more than happy to hop into comment threads and think up excuses for why hijab wearers shouldn’t go to school, for instance. Or for that matter, just plain old kids who aren’t showing enough skin. Suddenly, well-meaning Western “concerns” about the hijab seem a lot less well-meaning.

So zenith of oppression? No. A battlefield? Yes. A battlefield where reactionaries have lost the moral high ground? Absolutely and for a long time now, I just think it hasn’t sunk in yet.


I spent a few weeks working in Oman in 2012, and some (if not many or most) women wore a very distinct fragrance. I was later told that it’s the same fragrance that caretakers in Mecca put on the Kabaa’s coverings. So it’s difficult to imagine banning fragrances, or that particular fragrance, but I suppose anything’s possible when someone who’s insane and/or doesn’t know what he’s doing is in charge.

Granted, Oman (or at least, those in power) are Ibadi Muslims, not Sunni, though it’s still a very strict place: women can drive cars and hold jobs, though I believe in practice the latter is greater in civil service than in businesses. But a woman can’t leave the country without permission from a male relative. Evidently women there don’t have to wear a hijab and abaya, but based on my observation all the Omani women wore them (a minority wore a niqab). I suspect it sets them apart as natives, distinguishing themselves from expatriate women who either wear a different covering (e.g. in some color other than black) or who come from places where they aren’t worn at all. (EDIT: Similarly, local men stuck to wearing thawbs, and either a cap or turban, and these have attributes that are distinctly Omani.) Also, I spent all my time there in Muscat, so it may be different elsewhere in the country.

That fragrance stuck with me as much as anything else from my visit. I have to say that, eventually, smelling it every day where I was working became pretty frustrating, because I was away from my wife for several weeks (I brought a small vial home with me). So maybe the IS-types think it’s too enticing, but what an insane way of dealing with temptations.

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I agree but thats not solely an ISIS Problem but also an orthodox/fundamentalist jewish, catholic, evangelical etc. problem.

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It’s kind of funny. Our “fascination” with it isn’t that it’s symbolic, it’s an actual representation of what women must comply with in Islamic states or face dire consquences. It’s the most obvious example of oppression, and points to the rest.

It’s not that it’s seen as an evil, so much as that women are chattel (property). Call me reactionary if you like, but yeah… equal rights, gender equality or at least not being treated by property by men who often stand by ideas like child brides (pedophilia), stoning, executing homosexuals and generally treating half of their population as slaves.


It’s not a symbol… just a representation… Okay.

This is fundamentally untrue.


So I am for these things because I like women to make their own decisions about what works for them in their lives?

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You know what I find interesting about all this… they have fucking paper work, and corporate structures (al-Qeada, too). What does that tell us about these organizations, I wonder…

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Of course, now lots of people will assume you’re with the ISIS fuckers, because we can’t possibly have any nuance in our discussion around the “war of terror” because “CLASH OF CIVILIZATION!!!”

But yeah, women can make up their own minds. Doesn’t mean ISIS aren’t douche nozzles… It just means not all women who wear hijab are oppressed.


You know that ISIS or ISIL is an acronym for Islamic State of Iraq and the ash-Sham/Levant?

Well, that’s the western acronym, with the Arabic being DASH, though I can’t remember what it stands for… But yes. I promise I’m not that stupid.

But look, they are claiming an anti-western point of view here, but they are still working within particular corporate structures generally associated with the west (al-Qaeda even more so). I find that very interesting. If Foucault were here, he’d help us understand what it all means. Likely that these structures are so ingrained in world organization, that even the “enemies of the west” can not get out of those structures of power.


DAESH and it’s stands for essentially the same as ISIS/L.

They see themselves as religious, political and military authority and therefore use the same methods.


Thanks. Most people stick with ISIS/L, but if DAESH annoys them, we should use that.

As who? Western states? You’d figure they’d reject western-style bureaucracy as un-Islamic? They seemed to have embraced it.

I know this is apples and oranges largely, but I still think there might be enough in common to even say it:

I’ve been told by a number of islamic women that they think FGM is liberating and that it’s the only healthy way to live, and that it gives them power and respect.

So… I don’t really want to dismiss their opinion, but I can’t understand how having one’s clitoris cut off and sometimes the vaginal opening reduced to a pinhole can possibly be positive in any way.

I mean, we all know that FGM is specifically designed and to take any sexually derived enjoyment and power away from women. Yet they’re taught that having their genitals mutilated forever without consent is really “good for them” and it’s drilled in culturally so hard that contradicting their view with historical evidence amounts to religious blasphemy, and makes everyone in that culture ignore you, or hate you.

Now, I really honestly don’t mean to derail, and I honestly think there’s a relevant thread here, but if not, I’d like it explained, and drop this angle.


My former boss sure wasn’t. (Actually she wore a scarf.) I never talked to her about it, but my impression was that it was part of her identity, like it or not, and why should she give it up?


I’m not sure about that, statecraft isn’t a purely Western notion. In China, going back several centuries IIRC, civil service was seen as an elite profession, and preparation for the civil service exam was very grueling. I know that China is far removed from IS, but it’s also far removed from Europe. I suspect that the Ottoman Empire had quite a bureaucracy but I couldn’t guess as to whether it was homegrown, or influenced by their neighbors to the West – or to the East. FOr that matter I think scribes were held in high esteem in Ancient Egypt.

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I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two, though, so yeah, apples and oranges. But I see you’re point… to an extent.

Regarding FGM, something I do abhor, you should check out Heather Sharkey’s book on the Sudan and colonialism. I think she deals with this issue in a sensitive way that explains much without approving of the practice - it does get us far down the road of understanding a woman might say this - the fight against colonialism was empowering, embracing practices which are marked as distinctly one’s own in the face of colonialism, at least:

As for veiling, there is also the famous Fanon essay about the wearing of the veil in the midst of the Algerian resistance to French colonialism. I wish it were online, because it’s excellent and again places this culture practice within colonialism. But here is a thought piece on Fanon’s article which probably is far more eloquent about it than I could ever be:

this line seem particularly pertinent:

Fanon inverts the veil and shows how by fighting the French, women also asserted their place in Algerian society, and by virtue of struggle struck at both the mystifications of the colonial project and patriarchy in their own country.

Actually, I just watched Argo last week, and I was struck by the images of women in the chador, with guns throughout the movie. It was a powerful image that speaks volumes, back at the Americans, but also to the men of the revolution - “we are just as important as you are. It’s our revolution too.” And of course, Iran has a relatively high level of educational attainment, after a century of being kept out of education (under all governments - catch up began after the death of the Grand Ayatollah Khomeni. It’s not without restrictions, but women do well in education in Iran - a country with the veil and a high level of patriarchal structure:

Not saying that Iran is a paradise, but it’s a country which values education and women are getting an education and active in public life.

ETA: Also, another book, Samira Haj’s Reconfiguring Islamic Tradition is a good book on how lots of the things being embraced within some reactionary communties are actually entirely modern. She has a great chapter on Wahhab, who was the founder of the tradition followed by the House of Saud. I guess there is also Laura Deeb’s great book, Enchanted Modern, which looks as Lebanon and Hezbollah, specifically from the point of view of women.