The headscarf or "hijab" as a Muslim symbol of female inferiority


  • I recently received a promotional pamphlet from a market, Raley's of Sacramento, displaying a portrait of a woman in a hijab.   I communicated via e-mail that I felt offended by their choice of the image of a woman wearing a headscarf , for the hijab some Muslim women display  actually symbolizes the social and political oppression of women by Islamic men.  It is not and never has been a religious requirement, custom, or  dictate. The "hijab" is a political statement made by women who accept a submissive inferior role in a male society. It is used extensively as a political statement vis-a-vis the western world and the wearing of that piece of cloth goes hand in hand with the spread of Islamism. The response to my comment that it was offensive to me as a long time defender of women's rights was simply a statement  that Raley's respects all its customers.  It was in fact a non-response to my concern.  Because I am deeply aware of the plight of countless women in the Islamic world, subjected to an inferior status by men wishing to control them, and the struggle of brave men and women in that world who face imprisonment, whippings, rape and torture, and sometimes death for standing up against Islamic oppression, I must continue to speak about the matter. The question here and now, in California and in the United States thus becomes: is being politically correct so important to businesses like Raley's grocery stores that they ignore the cries of so many around the world about the actual meaning of the hijab?

  • Let me explain my concerns.  I was born and raised in a Muslim country, Morocco.  I witnessed early in life the desire on the part of women, young and old, to shed Islamic vestments for Western clothes, and also personally witnessed actual threats women would be subjected to if they wore no head covering in public.  The religious argument has no validity.  I studied the Koran and nowhere in this code of conduct of the Islamic community is it indicated that a woman should cover her head with a scarf . The head covering is indeed a sexual prison imposed by controlling men, and a symbol of oppression. Women who do not question the Muslim assertion that male is superior to female, and that a woman's impurity - i.e. showing her hair - can cause men to succumb to sexual desire , wear this head covering in acquiescent agreement to a form of sexual slavery. For anyone doubting such a social template, let me add a story that was related by an Iranian friend of mine:  her 50 year old aunt was picked up by a Teheran  modesty patrol because her head covering did not fully hide all of her hair and, according to the street police, a piece of it showed outside of the covering.  After several days of being detained, she was brought back to her home and dumped in front of it: she had been raped repeatedly by her jailers and her shame was so intense that she requested women in her family to take her to the baths for purification.  There, they respected her wish for privacy until a long time had elapsed but when they looked in on her to make sure she was alright, they found out that she had committed suicide.

  • It is not by chance that the wearing of the headscarf moves alongside the propagation of Islam. The hijab is a symbol of the growth of Islamism wherever it takes place. To keep quiet about its significance is not displaying religious tolerance, or even the respect for cultural diversity, as some would advance, and it is not a question of treating "the other" as an equal. I founded the Tazzla Institute for Cultural Diversity  in 1993 and served as a very active President for this Human Rights non-profit, charitable and educational organization for over twenty-five years.  As an anthropologist, I work primarily with populations of North Africa and the Sahara, for the most part Muslim people, locally, nationally and internationally.   Our concern for the symbolic statement of the hijab is profound and real,  hence my communication to Raley's market,  which however remains unanswered and disregarded.  I was debating what my next step would be when coincidentally, and not actively sought, I received a superbly relevant document signed by a substantial number of Muslim men and women, artists, social activists, psychologists, authors, lawyers, and others  which I am going to share with you in part, and which reads as follows:

  • "What is the meaning of the headscarf? 

  • It is a piece of cloth which covers the hair, the neck and ears. It indicates that the entire body of a woman is impure and it must not be taken off whatever the occasion. Its goal is to protect men who are not able to master their sexual desire at the sight of a woman's hair. The logic of the hijab is that women are temptresses,  sluts, and men are weak and horny, hence the necessity to hide from them at all times the object of their desire, female hair. The headscarf imposed on little girls, sometimes barely infants, helps them to get used to the idea of being ashamed of their bodies and prepares them to accept the lifetime status of a sexual object. The first act of Islamists is to impose the scarf while women who seek freedom from Islamic tenets and such sexual slavery  publicly burn  those symbolic scarves.

  • Resisting in peril of their lives

  • Both men and women who resist this indoctrination on the part of Islamists put their lives on the line.  Flagellation and imprisonment as well as assassination are consequences of not accepting the imposition of the hijab. Men are also fighting this ideology, as the headscarf is not just the history of woman, but is a political issue.  The introduction of the scarf in any society, Muslim or western, is a political act stemming from a political agenda.....

  • Listen to our voices

  • From Morocco and Algeria to France, Canada, Belgium, Iran and Sudan,  a great number of voices are rising to denounce such a political extremism of which the headscarf is the symbol. It is time for you to hear those voices.  We, men and women of Muslim origin or culture, having first hand experience of the Islamisation of our societies, are seriously concerned by this question of identity which arises when Islamism crawls, little by little, into our societies.  We have witnessed this occurence in our own countries of origin.  We request that our voices and historical knowledge of the issue of the headscarf as a symbol of Islamic ideology and part of a political agenda be heard and be given attention. We ask all members of the press, politicians, business owners, and educators to pay close attention to this issue and  actively engage in the education of their fellow citizens. "

  • Helene E. Hagan, President, Tazzla Institute for Cultural Diversity

  • Numerous signators of the international document are then listed, originally titled "Another headscarf story" and published in Belgium newspaper La Libre as "Le Hijab est une prison sexiste, mortifere, alienante