World Hijab Day is an annual event, which takes place on 1 February every year in more than 140 countries around the world. The world celebrated the Hijab Day today by inviting women of all religions to wear and experience the hijab for a day. This probably is the first time the modern world is celebrating a day where one is supposed to wear a religious symbol of oppression. It is interesting how the educated urban women who, champions of women rights on social media otherwise the whole year, supports something so regressive. It is hard to comment on whether it is their hypocrisy or idiocy or plain appeasement of the Muslim community.
Reasons propounded by the followers of this awkward practice are simplistic — to support Muslim women in hijab, a mark of solidarity with them. They have forgotten solidarity needs to be shown also towards the womenfolk suffering rapes and torture in countries like Syria and Iraq in the hands of ISIS. Solidarity must be shown towards all women in the world who are suffering oppression in the name of any religion.
The concept of World Hijab Day started as an opposition to French government’s ban on wearing the veil (France prohibits wearing even the holy cross by students in schools and executives in offices). The fight should, therefore, have been for a woman’s right to choose what to wear — and not her right to wear hijab — as a human right. There is, of course, nothing wrong in covering oneself, but the fight should have been for Muslim or other women’s right not to be judged by what they wear — bikini or burqa or whatever. If one is concerned about the right to wear hijab and not be judged in a western country, one should be equally concerned about a woman’s right not to cover her head in Saudi Arabia. Only then, this movement would be truly in favour of women across the world.
The organisers of World Hijab Day, who said the day was created to support women and their freedom to express themselves through the practice of hijab, did not ever think of the reasons why only women are supposed to wear hijab or burqa. It comes from the tired argument of protecting women from molesters. Without going into the number of crimes against women in Islamic countries, where most women are hijab-clad, the important question is till when and why we will be involved in victim-shaming and women bashing for crimes against women. How can we always let the offenders go guilt-free and blame women for his wrong behaviour?
Hijab is not just a headscarf or an innocuous piece of fabric, it’s the way of the patriarchal society to remind you that you are born as the second gender, a not-so-powerful one. With hijab comes a mentality that stops women from driving, going out alone without a male companion, not letting women be educated and financially independent, marrying them off without their consent, etc. Celebrating the World Hijab Day, therefore, is a tight slap on the face of all those who are working for women’s empowerment. An insult to the ones risking their lives to provide a better life to women, who, by the Sharia law, are forced to wear hijab.