The Chicago Tribune published last month an interview with six Chicago-area women "about why they wear the hijab..."
While the Tribune emphasized statements like, "The hijab can be a very American assertion of the right to self-expression. It can be flat-out feminist," many women in the Islamic world are chafing under its yoke and risk their lives to remove it.
As Asra Nomani, co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement, has previously explained the hijab is used by Islamists to enforce their ideology and an expression of an honor-shame social system at odds with U.S. notions of liberty,
"we have to be smart about the ideology that is putting this idea into the world that a woman must be defined by her idea of modesty, that she is the vessel for honor in a community. And I believe that we have to be very pragmatic, too, about the consequence of this. Women in Iran and Saudi Arabia are jailed, punished and harassed if they don't cover themselves legally, according to the standard of those countries. So the consequences for many women is oftentimes very dark."
While I agree the hijab should be a matter of choice, one of the women interviewed, Saeda Sulieman, expressed the influence of the patriarchal traditions and Islamist ideology behind the hijab. Sulieman said, "If I don't wear the hijab, I feel less secure, less powerful."
The article noted that Suleiman is president of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at her school. What the article fails to note is that historically the MSA was founded as an arm of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, with an objective to spread a political ideology that seeks to promote theocracy and establish Sharia, or Islamic law, as the law of the land.
Last year, in an effort to normalize this one symbol of Islamist patriarchy, the MSA "held a World Hijab Day event in which students could try on hijabs during lunch and ask questions." Could it be that Suleiman feels more powerful because the hijab is part of her activism?
Glamorizing the hijab in the West does not fulfill Muslim women's liberation and empowerment. It rather perpetuates women's oppression and is a betrayal to women's liberation movements in both, the West and the Islamic World.
Hesham Shehab is the Chicago Associate of the Counter-Islamist Grid (CIG).