There are many misconceptions about the hijab. The term commonly refers to a head covering some Muslim women choose to wear. But even that brief description is rife with issues ― including the fact that the Quran commands men, as well as women, to observe rules about modesty.
In honor of the first Muslim Women’s Day on Monday, prominent Muslim activist and lawyer Qasim Rashid offered a lesson on the nuance of hijab for men who want to tell women how to conduct themselves.
The term can most accurately be conceived of as a principle of modesty, including rules of dress and behavior for both men and women.
But that’s not how many Islamophobes ― and even some men in the Muslim community, as Rashid noted ― see it.
“I wrote the thread in honor of #MuslimWomensDay as a reminder to Muslim men about our responsibilities to observe hijab,” Rashid told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. “Too often men impose hijab on women, forgetting that we have no right to do so. Instead, Muslim men should work on reforming ourselves by upholding the requirements of hijab that the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad place on us.”
As Muslim women and advocates celebrated their strength and resilience for a day of celebration on Monday, a slew of bigots and trolls were out in full force on Twitter. Of the many hateful comments, photos and videos posted, a large portion took issue with women’s covering.
It’s true that in some countries, women are required to follow mandatory rules regarding dress and modesty. Then again, a number of countries ban veiling of any sort. Both aim to control the ways Muslim women dress and act. As Rashid pointed out, perhaps women aren’t the issue here.
But the focus on women and hijab serves to perpetuate a victim narrative, which Rashid said can have dangerous consequences.
“Especially at a time when violence against women is at epidemic levels, it is imperative men stop imposing themselves on women, and instead work on reforming themselves,” Rashid said. “And while I wrote the thread primarily for Muslim men, I was pleased to see many Christian, Jewish, and non-believing men also acknowledge the importance of self-reform.”