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Please don’t wear a hijab in solidarity, ask two Muslim journalists

Please don’t wear a hijab in solidarity, ask two Muslim journalists

Photo of author Asra Nomani at the Doha Debates, from the Washington Post article 

Writing in the Washington Post, Asra Q. Nomani and Hala Arafa, journalists who identify as liberal Muslim women, reject the idea of wearing a hijab in solidarity, citing their concerns regarding the hijab and their theological disagreement with head covering.

The two link hijab to conservative, male-dominated, aspects of Islam. From the article:

For us, as mainstream Muslim women, born in Egypt and India, the spectacle at the mosque was a painful joke and reminder of the well-financed effort by conservatives to dominate modern Muslim societies. This modern-day movement spreads an ideology of political Islam, called “Islamism,” enlisting unsuspecting well-intentioned do-gooders, while promoting the headscarf for women as a virtual “sixth pillar” of Islam, after the traditional “five pillars,” the shahada (or proclamation of faith), prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage. We reject this interpretation. We are not too sexy for our hair.

Nomani and Arafa mention the Muslim Reform Movement, a global network of leaders supporting the right of Muslim women to choose, advocating that Islam undergo a reform similar to Vatican II; prior to the 1965 reform, there was a requirement for Catholic women to cover their heads before entering churches.

The history of hijab–and the viral social network movement around wearing hijab in solidarity–is a surprising one; Nomani and Arafa write that the current trend was sparked by a company which sells hijabs and by a TV station with sexist views of women. Using the Koran and historical research, they explore the origin of the hijab, noting that modern usage is not in the Koran.

From the article:

The word hijab, or a derivative, appears only eight times in the Koran as an “obstacle” or “wall of separation” (7:46), a “curtain” (33:53), “hidden” (38:32), just a “wall of separation” (41:5, 42:52, 17:45), “hiding” (19:14) and “prevented” or “denied access to God” (83:15).

Not once is hijab used in the Koran used to mean “headscarf.” It most certainly never denotes any act of piety.

Would this make you think twice before donning a hijab in solidarity? What are other ways you can show your support for Muslims in the face of rising Islamophobia?


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David Allen
Paul Woodrum

Re Abraham. An awful lot of claims being made for a bit of non-historical mythology altered by oral tradition to fit the needs of the day and tribe.

Susan Yarborough

Re: the hijab. The important thing is for Muslim women to be able to decide for themselves whether to wear the hijab or not based on their own understanding of what it means to them to be faithful Muslims — without feeling forced to do so through intimidation or a need to express solidarity. There are Muslim women who are not “Islamists” but choose to dress according to an understanding that is different from that of Nomani and Arafa. However, it can be somewhat simpler for them to make that choice in some countries and not others.

By the way, the doctrine of the Trinity as defined by the Councils and the Creeds is not universally accepted among groups who call themselves Christian and never has been. There are “Jesus Only” churches in Pentecostalism today.

Philip B. Spivey

Thank you, Susan Yarborough. I appreciate your nuanced and informed comment.

JC Fisher

When I think of “wearing a marker to show solidarity”, I think of Christians in Denmark (inc the King) who chose to wear yellow Stars of David, after the Nazi occupiers IMPOSED them on Jewish Danes.

It’s very different, it seems to me, to choose to wear a marker that is itself chosen, not imposed (well, at least not imposed by non-Muslims anyway!).

“What are other ways you can show your support for Muslims in the face of rising Islamophobia?”

Mainly by denouncing it whenever/wherever you see it. Which sadly, in this Presidential campaign season, is FREQUENTLY.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Thank you, Rod Gillis, for the comparison to the way the Tories, out of desperation at the last minute, attacked Muslim women, only to alienate many Canadian voters. It made it easy for Justin Trudeau to say that in Canada women are free to dress however they wish and to use this issue as an example of his more positive vision of Canada. Thank you for calling for an informed discussion about Islam. Gary Paul Gilbert

Rod Gillis

@ Gary Paul Gilbert, the history of Islam and its diversity is fascinating. Getting involved in refugee sponsorship several years really helped my education with regard to our Muslim brothers and sisters as well. I’d recommend it to anyone.

Sorry about the “@ Paul” in my post last night, it should have read Gary Paul Gilbert. “Fog of debate” and all that ( :

I try and read all the posts and appreciate the priority here of folks using their names. I’m just an old debater, and sometimes it results in what are not my finest moments. Dogmatic views really fry my fanny, but it is partly because I have a streak of that in myself. For my sins….

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