As Laila Alawa wrote for Mic in 2014, “The belief that one can pinpoint the degree of religiosity a Muslim woman possesses by looking at what is upon her head is degrading, invasive and pretentious.” [Five myths about Muslims in America] Last year, Macy’s introduced a clothing line for women that included modest styles and, as the New York Times reported, “hand-dyed hijabs.” Nike sells the “Nike Pro Women’s Hijab.” And Merriam-Webster defines hijab as “the traditional covering for the hair and neck that is worn by Muslim women.” But “hijab” refers to a set of practices for a modest lifestyle.
Some of these rules apply to women and some to men.
“Hijab” has become a common way of describing a Muslim woman’s head covering, but sharia rules on modesty are about more than covering one’s hair — they deal with a range of attire and conduct, applicable to both men and women, intended to protect interactions between men and women from sexual innuendo.
It’s not necessarily offensive to use “hijab” as a synonym for “headscarf.” (It’s a lot closer than other terms, as long as you say “wearing hijab” rather than “wearing a/the hijab.”) But either way, fixating on one piece of cloth misses the point of sharia’s holistic rules for modest behavior.
From hijabi Barbie to the hijabi emoji, the Muslim headscarf is now ubiquitous.
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For some, a woman with her hair covered or her face veiled evokes victimhood and a system of domination, or perhaps exoticism (think of the real-life and theatrical versions of “Not Without My Daughter”).
Trump wear a head covering known as a hijab, or a headscarf.” “Hijab” means “curtain” or “partition,” not “headscarf.” The Koran uses forms of the words “khimar” and “jilbab,” but not “hijab,” when describing women’s dress.
“Khimar” means “cover” and corresponds to what we would call a scarf; “jilbab” is an outer garment.
“Please don’t celebrate it.” Gap’s 2018 back-to-school campaign featured a girl wearing hijab, earning a rebuke from Lydia Guirous, a spokeswoman for French political party Les Républicains, who tweeted, “I have denounced several times the rise in power of the veil imposed on little girls, which is a form of abuse and a trampling of our values.” But the notion that wearing a headscarf is inherently oppressive ignores the agency of the person who dons it.
Third-wave feminism holds that women should get to choose which practices are best for them without having to contend with anybody else’s expectations.