Friday, December 17, 2010

The Hijab as the Solution to Rape?

About a year ago, I realized something: We're told to wear the hijab in order to avoid being molested, and I, along with many other Muslim women, have actually fallen for this! We are also told that we are demanding respect by wearing the hijab. For some 21 years of my life, I was totally okay with this, believed it to be true, thought it made the most perfect sense in the world, and even accepted the head scarf as a commandment of God. Boy, was I wrong -- so, SO wrong.

Of course, I'm all for choice. As long as you choose to cover your hair (and anything else, for that matter, be it the face), it's all good. But I fear many Muslim women wear the hijab claiming it's out of choice but at the same time believing that it's *mandatory*. I'm not sure if that's a choice any longer, but I mustn't get into the whole philosophy of choice just yet. For now, I can say this much:

Why do I have to cover my hair to demand respect? Can I not demand it so in the millions of other ways available to me as options? Sure, if that's the only way you can get respect from others and it actually works for you, by all means hold strongly to it. But it doesn't work for everyone; even if it does work, it's not the only option. Only a man raised to believe that a woman whose hair isn't covered is inviting molestation or rape or troubles of other sort would assume that the woman has no respect for herself or her body just because her hair is not covered.

One way to view the hijab, especially for the reasons I stated above (respect, not inviting rape, etc.), is this: "People, the ONLY way men will respect me is if I wear the hijab, and so here I am." In other words, "I don't know how else to prove my worth to people, and the only way that I've been taught is by covering my hair."

So, yeah, many Muslim females falsely believe that by wearing the hijab, you're demanding respect and telling society, "You BETTER accept me for what I am. I'm not giving this up just to please you." What we don't think about is .. are we saying something else, something different, the opposite, when we choose not to wear the hijab? I mean, what about a non-hijabi woman screams, "People, feel free to disrespect me!" Why're we assuming that the non-hijabi Muslim woman has "given up" the hijab to please whomever?

Besides, here's something else we say when we wear the hijab: "I'm nothing but a dangerously sexy and naturally seductive being -- all because I was born a female -- and so the only way to make myself be seen as a NON-seductive individual is if I cover my hair/face."

No, no - don't get me wrong. That's not all there is to the hijab; I'm just reminding you that your way of seeing the hijab isn't the only way. And neither mine nor yours is the correct, or the only correct, way. But both are equal in value, and both views need to be acknowledged.

I find both ways insulting -- the view that the ONLY way men will leave me alone is if my hair is covered and the view that I'm a naturally seductive being. For God's sake, there's SO much more to a woman than just her body. And the niqab and hijab actually tend to objectify the woman at least as much as, if not more than, they "humanize" her by portraying her as a human rather than a sex object. Every Islamic/Muslim forum you ever go to talks about hijab; every debate on Muslim women revolves around women's hijab. Like, yo! Is there NOTHING more to my humanness, my womannness, my Muslimness, my identity than the piece of cloth I choose or am forced to wear on my head?

We're also told that wearing the hijab reduces our chance of being raped/molested/teased otherwise. But, but, but, but . . . but here's the problem with that: By covering ourselves so much, are we REALLY helping solve the problem of those hungry beasts who are looking for women to rape? Or are we submitting to their beliefs and wishes and placing on women ALONE the burdens of morality and peace and stability in our society, which we share with our male counterparts as well? Are there any other solutions to the problems of hungry beasts, or is this the only one?

We may not realize it, but it's time we do: When we tell the woman to wear the hijab so she can avoid being molested, we're evading the REAL problem of our society: criminals, rapists justifying their evil actions against women who choose not to cover. Hungry men roaming around, looking for a female whose hair is uncovered (no, really?) so they can rape her. And what are we doing, folks? We're JUSTIFYING rape! We're saying, "That woman deserved to be raped. She should've covered her hair, and then nothing would've happened. Let's make all girls cover their hair. Problem of rape solved!" Oh, I don't think so. I've read some conflicting statistics on the rates of rape in Muslim societies where women have to cover their hair as well as in non-Muslim societies where women don't have to cover their hair, so I really don't know which stats to trust. But for those of us, like Zakir Naik, who think that AMERICA represents the ultimate non-Muslim society in which women don't have to cover their hair, that America's high rape rate represents EVERY non-Muslim society's rates, I'm not convinced! America isn't all there is, you see. There's Canada, too, and Iceland and Germany and Japan and Mexico and Brazil . . . and the list is never-ending.

My intention is not to make women take the hijab off. No. What they do with their lives, whether by choice or compulsion, is entirely their business -- or maybe the business of those who are in charge of them. But I want only that we see how many different ways our dress code can be seen, and I don't want us to accept any unless and until we've understood more than what we are used to. That way, our ultimate decision was made upon serious contemplation and not just imitation of someone else's beliefs or understanding/interpretation.

But do understand that if your wearing the hijab has anything to do with your sex/gender/physiology, you are essentially sexualizing yourself and bring more attention to your sexual parts than repelling attention from them.


  1. Many of the reasons women give for wearing hijab I never bought, even as a hijabi. One being the line that "I cover my body so I'll be seen for my personality and intelligence, not my body." And yet, we see in majority Muslim countries, especially ones that have mandated and extreme dress codes for women ala KSA, women are absolutely not respected for their personality or their intelligence, at least not in the public sphere.

    And I strongly suspect that rape is horrendously undereported in Muslim countries due to the stigma and in some place blame being placed on the victim.

    1. Are actually kidding me? You are looking at Muslim countires? How ignorant are you? Muslim countries are hellholes within themselves for both men and women!!!!

      Firstly they are broken empires due to corruption and on top of it puritanical colonizers have spread their fucking corruption and way of life into Islamic countires in the past 200 years!

      Hijab wasn't even included in Shariah constitutions of many nations before western colonizers! The Mughal empire for example, the head covering was a social and a PERSONAL RELIGIOUS ideal!

      women along with men are treated like animals in these so called 'islamic' countries. they are under developed nations stifled with poverty, war, including corruption which leads to injustice. The corrupted governments don't want to progress they just want the fat stacks to themselves.

      This all links to the treatment of women in these countries. No food, no education, social structures are post colonial and backward.

      please, do yourself a favour. Stop beating around the bush, do some research. Understand the meaning of context. DON'T COMPARE THE ''''NEWLY'' CIVILIZED WEST TO THE POST COLONIAL DUMPS OF 'ISLAMIC' COUNTIRES!!!


  2. Rape happens in all societies, and I think that is the point we should focus on. Regardless of hijab or no hijab, women are raped whether they wear it or not. Therefore, it is not a deterrent, and to say so is fallacious. Not only that, but how would that tie in to wearing it for God? Instead, we are being told to wear it for men!

    Hijab has become a political tool, and it has lost all spiritual significance for me.

  3. Hey, ladies!
    Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

    Steph, you're absolutely right. We claim that in "Muslim" countries, rape doesn't happen like it does in the west, but oh heck no - it's hidden like crazy in our societies! (I'm from Pakistan; I'd know.) When you get raped, no one ever marries you, no one marries your sisters or any other females related to you, and so on. So you have no choice but to hide it and live stained for life. Plus, everyone blames it on you; the perpetrator runs off or denies it. Oh, to make it worse, there's the Hudood Ordinance ratified in 1979 by then-president Zia ul-Haq and revised in 2006 by Muhsharraf. They basically say that the woman has to bring forth FOUR Muslim adult sane morally upright men as witnesses to her rape! And if she can't produce those witnesses, then SHE is to be punished! Pakistani jails were flooded with female "criminals" between 1980 and 2006 (probably today, too) because of this. One wonders, "Does a woman commit fornication by herself?"

    Sarah, I completely agree that the hijab isn't worn for God; it's worn for man, no matter how much many Muslim women who wear it by choice claim, "I'm wearing it for God!" More on this another time. Gosh, I've like too much to say about this whole hijab ... and I hate myself for it because I'm being just like those dumbos who, EVERY time they talk about Muslim women, talk only on the hijab!

  4. i've always found this reasoning (rape) disturbing. man made for sure (zakir naik is running a marathon through my mind), if it was purely to "save ourselves" from men then whatever happened to "lower your gaze"? i also didn't know about the pakistani law regarding rape victims, that sickens me.

  5. Whether we like it or not, hijab has become a big deal, especially for us as women. So, I think it is only natural for us to focus on it because it affects us personally as Muslims. I am glad you have focused on it sis, it is something we should all be talking about as much as we need to in order to wrap our heads around it and make intelligent decisions regarding it.

  6. OMG, Hina!! I HAVE to show you my chapter/section on Zakir Naik's view on women!!! I gave his views an entiiirely different interpretation, because this guy is a misogynist to the core! I'm gonna be posting parts of it on this blog soon, ka khair wee, and I can't wait!

    Sarah, that's actually true. So long as we don't talk about it in a way that defensively screams, "I AM WEARING THIS BECAUSE THIS IS THE ONLY WAY I CAN RESPECT MYSELF, OKAY?!! I DO THIS FOR GOD, NOT FOR MAN!" others need to hear us, 'cause, while that may make sense to them (though I refuse to believe it does: They say that only because that's what the modern Muslim woman hijabi and misogynist male televangelists, like Zakir Naik, tell them to say), our side of the story needs to be heard as well. Thanks for helping me realize this!

  7. I have never heard of Zakir Naik, I look forward to learning more from you about this person.

  8. Sure thing, Sarah!
    I just posted something on him on my other blog. Once I make it more academic and polish the writing a tad bit, I'll transfer it over to this blog, lol.

  9. i love reading your articles on the blog , totally relate to your thoughts , this particular one is awesomeness :), i was so tired of reading countless articles on hijab and how women are sinners if we done wear one ....etc , for once am glad i read a sensible view ... thank you

  10. Hi, Shazia!
    Welcome to the blog!
    Thanks for your comment :) Glad you found us!

    I, too, am tired of all the stuff on how you're a sinner if you don't wear the hijab. My favorite line is: "The hijab is a CHOICE!" but then the women who don't wear it are clearly deemed less pious or religious or spiritual or closer to God than those who supposedly choose to wear it. Funny stuff!

  11. "I cover my body so I'll be seen for my personality and intelligence, not my body."

    That's the statement I used for a very long time, when I took it off my personality and intelligence were not longer seen instead I was criticised for "low Imaan", "hypocrisy", "loose morals" and "slutiness". This reasoning is superficial too I'm surely not friends with a girl because she wears the same items as I do, yes it might give you a certain platform for identification, however to form a deep and lasting friendship one needs much more than the same fashion items(YES I call the hijab a FASHION ITEM!).

    I was sexually molested in a Pakistani masjid by the Imam himself and I had worn a full burqa then, only my eyes and hands visible, so nobody should LECTURE me on rape and sexual harrassment and how it has something to do with our clothes. Wearing a burqa makes your body much more desirable because man start to fantasise who that lady beneath it might be and what she might look like.

    Rape has much more to do with psychological control and with humiliation, all these idiots who claim it is about having sex should answer to me how come even women aged 60 or more, were raped at times when they were robbed or during war? Even men are raped? Why is that? Because they do not wear a hijab? Rape is a tool and a way of degradation and humiliation that's it.

    I see girls my age who basically "defend" rapists and and "honour killers" saying the girls deserved it or were to blame for it. How can such type of thinking be instilled into a woman's head? That SHE IS TO BLAME for the actions of psychologically damaged men?

  12. I totally agree Sultana, a burqa, hijab, etc has nothing to do with protection or less desirability.

    An old lady in Peshawar used to go to houses to wash clothes as a job. One day she came to ours pretty upset, and told my mum what she did on her way. She said for months she's been using the same route from house to house and a young gatekeeper of a certain house stares at her constantly. She used to wear a shuttlecock burqa by the way. It got too much for her after some months and that day she literally stopped in front of him, lifted her burqa and said why do you always stare, what do you want from me? I'm an old woman! The man apologised to her and looked away.

    Imagine that, the only way to get him off her back was by showing herself to him!

  13. Sultana, I agree with the whole fashion thing! That's exactly what the hijab has become for many Muslims, particularly those who try to match it up with their outfits and stuff. Not that I think this is wrong or un-Islamic, of course. I do this myself with my own all the time! If I thought it was wrong, I wouldn't be doing it.

    Hina :| That was just sick! A man staring at a woman in burqa and then he comes to find out she's an old woman!! Gosh. Sickness to the core! Maybe when I'm 69 years old some day, inshaAllah, I would look forward to the same thing -- make the dude fall in love with me, imagining that I'm a young woman available for marraige with him! LOL. And then he finds out where I live and sends rishta my way ... only for me to laugh so, SO hard at his sister/mother/whoever's there on his behalf, and say, "So much for wearing a burqa. I guess it's time I discarded it, eh, ladies."

  14. You surely do have some weird plans for your retirement!!! lol

  15. O God Hina that's really disgusting! Poor lady. However my friend told me yesterday how his relative in Peshawar is constantly followed by boys on the road they even chased behind her in a car while she was driving and she ended up having an accident is it a common thing there?!

    Well Hijab to me is a group symbol too, you have the feeling you belong to a certain type of group you are among your peers, people just won't agree when you explain it to them. What is more shocking is that I used to tell everyone how liberating it was when there is plenty of women in the east who are forced to wear it? I mean that's just not the right thing to do, speaking on their behalf, the folks here wear it because they have the right to choose it but in Saudi and Iran nobody gets to choose it, it is mandatory and you are punished if you disobey, in a certain way we "support" this injustice.

  16. Well no I don’t think it’s common for a lady driver to be chased by a car full of boys down the streets of Peshawar, though it can and obviously has happened. However there are relatively more lady drivers in and around Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi etc so I wouldn't doubt it being uncommon there for sure.

    Men are men, desi's are desi's, this is a desi problem not a Peshawar problem. Men up and down Pakistan stare at women; every village in Pakistan has that staring problem where a man would stare at a woman till she has walked so far off she's literally vanished from sight. I’ve even noticed that here in England in a certain street where there is a majority of Bangladeshi’s.

    It’s just pathetic of some men to be so perverted, but it's like the jahiliya age, people are heading back that way so this is certainly a part of that jahalat.

    The hijab on the other hand, yes some women wear it by choice and some women have no choice. But I do know that if I was to go to my village in Pakistan then I would wear a dupatta over my head out of respect for that area, not because I am giving in to or supporting any injustice. I would rather feel awkward for not respecting their customs, and it would certainly not give me any right to expect a non-Pukhtun to respect my values if I can’t respect my own.

    On the same note however, I have also walked the shopping streets and plaza's of Peshawar town without any head covering and this is as late as just 3 years ago.

    I can't speak for women not wanting to wear a hijab but being told it's compulsory, as I know Muslim women from both Saudi and Iran and they don't put a stamp to that claim. I think it's probably not only the overall 'country's' law for Muslims but more so the particular household they are living in that is forcing the hijab on them and not the country as a whole.

  17. Great article, I have to agree. To claim that a wearing a hijab is necessary in order to halt the advances of men is plain ridiculous. Those people who molest and rape women will do so regardless of whether a woman’s hair is covered or not. I believe women should have a choice as to whether they wish to cover their hair or not. I also think it’s pretty demeaning to men to claim that if a woman doesn’t have her hair covered shell be chased around by myriad uncontrollable men.

  18. With hijab I am never even given the chance to show who I really am. Straight away I am judged. I wrote about this a couple of days ago on my blog.

    Also, since wearing hijab I have been abused so much. I was never once yelled at in public or been spat at. Or sworn at. etc etc etc If hijab stops abuse, then how does one explain what happens to me?

    Do I appear as if I am stalking you now? LOL

    Love your blog!

  19. I meant to say that before hijab I was never once yelled at by strangers in public etc!

  20. Hello, ladies (no gents here so far, right?)! Thank you all for your great contribution, and I'm terribly sorry for not being able to reply earlier ~blushing~

    These are some very interesting and different perspectives on the hijab! Different from what we hear from many hijabis/muhajjabas who have different experiences with the hijab, such as that they feel more protected with the hijab on that with it off, and so on.

  21. thank you thank you so much for this blog!!

    1. :) You are so very welcome, Anonymous! Welcome to the blog, and I hope to see you around more often!

  22. Ok so I'm late, but I find the discussion and comments interesting.

    So this is my understanding of hijab and why we are commanded to wear hijab (commanded is debatable)...

    Hijab is the Islamic ideal of modesty for BOTH men and women to promote and protect the modesty of both men and women. But today we find that hijab is constantly referred to in reference to Muslim women only so we have half naked Muslim men walking about with their pants hanging below the waist and sending topless photos to Muslim women and other women, exposing their six pack ha ha...

    There is also many layers to hijab, which extends beyond the physical/outer hijab i.e inner hijab and social hijab.

    The concept of Social hijab: basically means that Muslim men and women should also be modest in their speech and how they conduct themselves out in society.

    The concept of inner and outer hijab: The concept of inner hijab has been described as a person controlling his carnal desires (not suppressing those desires, but controlling them) which exist within him or her, and if one can control his carnal desires, which exist within, then this will in turn strengthen his outer (physical) hijab. And so, for instance, if the hijab has been forced on a person, be it male or female or adopted without purpose or research, then the outer hijab will soon be laid aside or taken for granted.

    Just my 2 cents :)

  23. Wearing hijab does not prevent women from being raped!Rape is not about satisfying a person's sexual appetite it's about control. So whether I'm covered from head to toe doesn't exclude me from being raped. There have been many cases reported of Muslim women dressed in hijab being raped and degraded.

    Men need to be thought in their homes to respect and value women - only then I believe we can effectively tackle the issue of rape.

  24. Wow! This was one of the most enlightening and smart discussions I read in any Muslim forum. But I have two problems with it.

    All you ladies demonstrated to be very intelligent. I have a problem with that. Our prophet (pbuh) said women are deficient in intelligence. Sahih Bukhari 1:6:301 So this leaves me a bit perplexed. Does this mean that he was a misogynist liar or am I confused for taking you ladies as intelligent? I hope you agree with me that these two choices are mutually exclusive.

    The next problems is that although everything you say is true about rape having nothing to do with being covered or not, our prophet (pbuh) actually thought it has.

    The Quran 33:59, "O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters, and the women of the believers, that they should pull down on them a cloak from their heads over their faces. That is more likely that they may thus be recognized and not molested. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful."
    Which again brings me to the question: Are we all wrong or maybe Muhammad (pbuh) was just a misogynist liar and not a prophet of God and.

    Well, I made my decision. There are women in my life that I love and I smash the mouth of any man who would call them deficient in intelligence. You can read more about that in my blog

    1. Of course, your comment doesn't deserve a response, so I'll ignore the parts that are too ignorant for me to give time to (really, you're embarrassing yourself), BUT I must say this:

      The verses you've given - ever tried looking at the original text and not to the translator's personal opinions interpolated into the translation? Yeah, do consider reading the original some time without falling prey to others' whims.
      LOL @ the translation of "not molested." Sighs. Typical bigots, Islamophobes.

  25. Your entire article becomes rubbish with just one verse of reply from the Quran.

    Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. - (Quran - 24:30)

    Quran clearly warns men and Islam is the only major religion which says and implements 'Death to the rapists'

    1. That verse is about masturbation.

      And what about the amount of witnesses and evidence a woman needs?
      Why must is it always a woman's fault for the few sociopaths lack of self control?

  26. It honestly feels like most of the articles & comments come from non-Muslims or truly ignorant Muslims, or worst islamophobes! If you ladies are Muslim, I sincerely ask Allah SWT to guide me & urself to what pleases Him S. Read about hijab & why masculinity is used in the Arabic language (the theory of Taghleeb by which the masculine gender is used for both genders when addressing both genders at the same time). Read about these before you write uneducated articles & misguide yourselves & others if you believe in Allah S & his messenger.

  27. Women need to train in the martial arts. And men need to be taught to be busy with things other than fantasizing in the female form. I mean, honestly, there is so much more to life than that. I view Hijab as something to please Allah. If it is really mandatory, Allah will reward us. If it is not, you were still trying to please your lord, so I guess you get rewarded for that too. But if it is not mandatory and I find it out in the field of Hashr, I will never forgive the men and women who made women feel sad all their lives, thinking they were sinners. And I will never forgive the judges who let rapists walk free. My confusion about the "mandatory" thing comes from me being a non-Arab. I intend to learn Arabic before passing on judgement to other people based on translation alone. The different translations of the Quran confuse me.

  28. i just came across this article and I have to say - Bravo! you've said everything I'veb een mustering about for years now in such an articulate way...sigh, as a Muslim woman who does wear the Hijab - I've become increasingly confused about what my Hijab actually means to me, and the message i am giving to the rest of the world....I just don't know what to think about it....

  29. Assalamualaikum, Hi sister. I bookmarked this page. Thank you so much for writing this article. Some people just need to be encouraged about things they should've known, like me. I am planning to wear it right a way. Maybe you'd want to write another article about how to get started covering body. I haven't checked your other article. It's really nice to see this article.. -annisa


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