Hijab, Mahsa Amini’s Death, and a Mockery of International Daughters’ Day(Part I)

Pamelia Khaled:

Representational Image

Sunday 25th was International Daughters’ Day. In Iran, the daughters’ day turned into a grieving day for Mahsa Amini’s death, not properly wearing a piece of article on her head. When we, mothers, can not protect our daughters from men and conservative religious practices, how can we make them happy and save our daughters’ lives? One of my Iranian friends wrote to me asking for help. She was crying when describing Mahsa Amini’s death and the situation of people in Iran. 

 She wrote to me that we are apprehensive about the religiopolitical status of Iran. We need everyone’s support to save our daughters. Please support the Iranian women and the people. The current government is killing intellectuals, writers, university students, environmental activists, women, children, and gay individuals in the name of Islam. We need to stop supporting the existing government and negotiating with Iran. The International communities and states should help the Iranian people, not the Iranian government.  

Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old beautiful young girl was arrested for a so-called dress code violation, and this young woman died under Iran’s morality police custody. Her death sparked a social movement across the country. Women burned their headscarves and cut their hair to protest the government’s restrictions on Iranian women’s social freedom and human rights. Why Iranian women cut their ponytails and burned their headscarves raised a big question. Once Iran was a modern state during Reza Shah Pahlavi’s time, but the Khomeini regime turned this country into a conservative Islamic state. Women enjoyed freedom and justice until his overthrow in the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979. But under Khomeini’s regime, women were the target of direct oppression. Mahsa Amini’s death awakened Iranian women from a deep sleep. They acknowledged what they lost during the religion-focused rigid, violent regime. Freedom of women and human rights were stamped and buried under the religious rug, and women became the puppets of this regime.  

Therefore, in this article, I discuss the necessity of wearing a veil for a Muslim woman must be understood her social and political context. The hijab and niqab (headwear and face-covering pieces) are not mandatory accessories or unique styles in Islam; instead, the veil is being used as a social norm, from society to society, for different causes. In many societies, it has become a symbol of backwardness or repression, and one can probably better understand and appreciate the message of this poem.


 Wearing a veil is not part of Islamic law; the culture adopted it. Instead, wearing a veil was a part of the olden days’ culture. Some Muslim women like maintaining a headscarf and face-covering by a piece of clothes. Some Muslim women do not want to wear any of those accessories as it is not necessary to maintain Muslim women’s modesty and purdah fitting to Islam. For more than fifteen centuries, using a headscarf has become a part of the culture in many religions. Thus, a veil or extra outerwear (a long dress to cover the entire body) has become a part of a social choice. Women wear those accessories sometimes for the pressure of the head of the family or women’s choice.


Thus, this article touches upon double standards applied to Muslim women in Canada and worldwide. Some people talk about the veil/hijab/niqab/ hand gloves, others about Muslim women’s leadership and terrorism. 


The subject matter’s diversity indicates the range of voices in the growing Muslim community. The way Muslim issues are discussed everywhere is not the definitive view of a true Muslim. Part of the problem with media representation is that some people randomly talk about all sorts of issues without pursuing knowledge. They just become the Muslim voice or non-Muslim voice; however, it would be great to have more than one point of view. 


When we see a woman with a veil, a hijab or a niqab, we must not change the ideas of diversity. We must not be fearful and standoffish and worried; instead, we must be understanding and not see conservative Muslim women as the offender or the person to be feared, but rather see them as vulnerable and someone who wants to be understood.


In the doldrums of Islamophobia and the ISIS movement worldwide and their declaration to convert the entire world population into Muslims and Islamic states, a Saudi Cleric ruled a new fatwa against wearing hijab. The fatwa was issued by Saudi Arabia’s former head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Makkah, Ahmed bin Qassim al-Ghamidi. He said that “Islam doesn’t require women to wear a veil,” adding that women can put makeup on, take pictures of themselves and post them on social media networks. The Saudi cleric said, “there is nothing wrong if a woman shows her face or puts on makeup.” 


He adds that as far as to claim that only the wives of the Prophet (PBUH) “were required to wear Hijab so that adult males outside of their immediate family couldn’t see them.” To support his claims, he quoted a previous saying of the Palestinian Islamic scholar Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdqsi. He said that “if the woman’s face and hands were intimate parts of her body, it would not be Haram for her to cover them while performing Al-Haj. Ahmed bin Qassim al-Ghamidi adds that instead of blaming women, they should blame men who are required to lower their gaze. The Saudi cleric quoted Morocco’s scholar Qadi Ayyad, who once said: It’s not mandatory for a woman to cover her face outside her house, but it is a Sunna Mustahaba (preferable, not obligatory). Men, on the other hand, shall lower their gaze.” Morocco World News posted the above news on 6 December 2014.  


It is unclear how Muslim women started wearing the veil/ hijab in Mecca and across the Muslim world. Was it imposed in the name of Islamic rule by men or not? Or it became a norm for women to get identified as their high status in society needs to be clear.


To read Part II, Click Here.


About the writer:

The writer is an expert in Curriculum and Pedagogy (CP), Peace and Conflict educator, Toronto, Canada. She can be reached at [email protected]


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