For many Europeans, the hijab is the visual representation of a vehemently detested societal change. One that was enforced by officials that they did not elect, and championed by the kind of person whose pampered existence will never be troubled by the negative consequences of mass immigration or state sponsored multiculturalism. Unfortunately, this widespread sentiment has seen the hijab become a repository for some of the frustrations of Europe´s disenfranchised traditional working class.
Many have allowed these frustrations to transition into a demonisation of those who wear the hijab or chador. Worse still, many an opportunistic thug has taken advantage of this highly charged social climate to commit violent attacks against the muslim women who wear them. It must be added here that disliking someone and being violent towards them are two very different things, requiring vastly different judgements on our part. However make no mistake, the kind of bully who snatches off the veil of an unsuspecting Muslim woman, or verbally abuses her on a metro system, would not do so without the comfort of knowing that they will be supported by others who feel the same way but wouldn’t go as far as to do it themselves.
The fundamental problem with this kind of attitude toward those who wear the hijab is that it is demonstrably wrong. The people who hold it are projecting what are in some cases legitimate grievances onto people who have done them no harm and just want to get on with their lives in peace. Growing up on the Wythenshawe council estate in south Manchester, known to many as the place where that idiot made the gun sign behind David Cameron’s back, the number of occasions that I saw these kinds of projections runs too many to remember.
Hence one might think that I would be a supporter of “World Hijab Day.” It is after all, a way for well-meaning people to show solidarity with a subset of a minority community who face persecution both in Britain and around the world. A day in which people can try on the hijab themselves, showing the Muslim women who make it central to their identity that they are accepted and welcomed into the happy mosaic that is modern Western society. To this extent it really is fabulous idea.
I would, therefore, be a supporter were it not for the following facts: 1) The majority of women who wear the hijab or chador do so in communities where they are not at liberty to reject them. Even for the luckier women who genuinely wish to wear the garment, this lack of liberty is matter of grave concern. 2) For those women who would not wear them if given the chance, fear of violent reprisal from their family and wider community are a daily nightmare. 3) Even in the liberal West, these fears are often well warranted and the threats that spawn them genuine.
Due to these inconvenient truths, any act of solidarity that involves wearing the hijab or chador is an erasure of the horror suffered by those poor women who are not afforded any say in the matter.
By all means show solidarity, just don’t do it in a way that rubs dirt in the face of every women whose victimhood is channeled through the very item of clothing you now use to signal how virtuous you are. They suffer far greater harm than any of the people you are seeking to help, and could do with some solidarity themselves. If you really care about the victims, try petitioning your government to place conditions on the aid it gives to countries where women who refuse to wear the hijab are met with systemic oppression, persecution and violence. Alternatively, if you would rather channel your good will through domestic avenues, join an awareness campaign about the number of women who are treated as property by their male relatives right here in the UK. There are probably a lot more of them than you think.