I’m not quite sure how to write this post. I do want to write about the day I’ve spent, but I definitely don’t want to be the white, non-Muslim woman who puts on Hijab for a day and suddenly thinks she understands what it’s like living as a Muslim woman in Australia. So I’m going to just treat this particular post (or posts, if I end up writing more than one) as a journal of sorts, and try my best to record without drawing conclusions. Which means it will probably be rambling and unpolished, so apologies in advance!
After my last post, and after depressing myself thoroughly by reading the comments sections in news articles about women in Hijab or Niqab being abused or attacked (never, ever read the comments sections if you want to retain any faith in your fellow humans. Here’s a handy Twitter feed to remind you of this.), I started looking around for ways to express solidarity and engage with the Muslim community. I’m actually much more shy than I seem (people are *terrifying*), and also afraid of doing the wrong thing and making things worse, so this was sort of difficult.
I did find a group on Facebook called Women in Solidarity with Hijabi, and it’s fairly easy to lurk in a non-confrontational way on Facebook and see what people are doing, so this seemed like a good place to start. The idea of this group is to encourage non-Muslim women to wear the Hijab for a day or a week, to show solidarity for their Muslim sisters.
I personally love this idea for many reasons, including the entirely vain one that I’ve always secretly thought that scarves look prettier than hair and have wanted to try wearing one… But more seriously, I do like the idea both of showing solidarity in this way, and of possibly confusing the bigots. I mean, wouldn’t it be cool if so many people started wearing headscarves that they no longer became a marker of religion (and thus, evidently, a way for nasty-minded and cowardly folk to identify people to pick on)? And… as a feminist, I get very nervous when people talk about banning the burqa or the niqab. I mean, yes, part of me does worry that some women are being forced to wear a garment which certainly circumscribes their freedom of action (I can’t see cycling or doing labwork in a niquab, frankly), and which may also reduce their ability to participate socially in society – but I think that banning these garments is likely to further isolate women who may not have a choice about their covering, or who are deeply conscientious about it – like the girls in France who simply stopped going to school when the hijab was banned, because they did not feel that they could be uncovered in public. But most of all, I really, really am not comfortable with the government telling women (and it’s always women) what they may or may not wear. I wouldn’t like it if the government forced me to wear a burqa, and I wouldn’t like it if the government forced me to go topless. What I wear should be nobody’s business but my own.
Of course, the obvious question that arises from this idea is – is wearing a hijab when I’m not Muslim offensive to Muslims?