There’s a time to stop listening

The internetz are unfortunately all too full of men claiming that women need to wear hijab in order to protect their fragile male selves from being tempted to sin. As well as of women echoing such ideas.

This has got to be the best comment on this phenomenon that I’ve ever encountered:

Even though I’m sure there are other Muslim men who have this same opinion, I think this dude is super confused and doesn’t really have a lot of knowledge about hadith or about other Muslim women at all. He upholds the narrative that all accountability and responsibility of representation rests on the shoulders of (hijabi) Muslim women, absolving him of anything. It’s annoying and he should basically just shut the fuck up. Also, I really really hate when people compare wearing hijab to having a beard. It’s. Not. The. Same. At. All.

As you know, lots of Muslim women wear hijab for a variety of different reasons, some of them religiously based, or for security or comfort and other times for more political reasons. My reasons literally have nothing to do with how I am perceived by a man.

So basically whenever a man starts talking about hijab, I stop listening. Because they have no idea. They really don’t.

Now, if only I had taken that advice years ago. Just to stop listening whenever any man starts talking about how women should or shouldn’t dress or behave.


Oddly enough, even though I dehijabed several years ago, and usually try to steer clear of conservative Muslims, I STILL sometimes end up being subject to hearing Muslim men shooting off their mouths about what women should or shouldn’t wear. It seems that the endless hijab discourse just follows female-bodied Muslims everywhere nowadays. Even people like me, who don’t usually seek it out, and who try to duck and run if we sense it coming our way.

I’ve had Muslim men who self-identify as “progressive” or even as “secular” and who say that they are absolutely not down with conservative Muslim heterosexist patriarchy make really judgmental comments about what women wear and do. To me. Saying things such as that they “hate hijab” or that they don’t agree with hijabis doing things like hanging out in cafes or smoking sheesha. And they are then puzzled-veering-towards-offended when I indicate that I don’t agree with what they are saying. And I am left wondering why I find these conversations so disturbing.

I have dubbed it the Chrif Syndrome—men acting like that character Chrif in Mohja Kahf’s novel, Girl in a Tangerine Scarf. Chrif is a secular Muslim who has no time for conservative Muslim sexism and sees himself as so much more enlightened, but he himself is quite unreflectively sexist, to a disturbing degree. (Fortunately enough, Khadra breaks up with him.)

Putting this kind of sexist stuff down to religious dogma is only partly correct. It’s not only the religious types who think that they have the right to decide what women should or shouldn’t be wearing or doing. This sort of thing is based on a more general (ubiquitous?) notion of male privilege: that men are somehow entitled to pass judgment on women, and that their opinions matter. An attitude which religious dogma reinforces and promotes, but religiosity isn’t necessary in order to sustain it. Men who leave conservative approaches to Islam behind may assume that having done so, they automatically leave sexism behind too. If only things were that simple.

Anyway… So basically, whenever a man starts talking about hijab, I stop listening. Because they have no idea. They really don’t.” I wanna put this on a t-shirt. Or on my computer screen saver. Or something.


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