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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Hijab vs Empowerment

Indian Muslim women’s experience concerning patriarchy is indeed different from non-Muslim women’s. The most significant difference is the politicization of their liberation. Do you think Hijab is an issue for them?

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By: Mohammed Saifuddin
Imagine a life where you have to fight patriarchy, and poverty, get yourself educated while dismantling stereotypes surrounding you tough, isn’t it? That’s a reality for millions of Muslim women in this country. Hijab is one such symbol of patriarchy.
Getting an education is certainly either a privilege or a struggle when you are an Indian Muslim woman. The recent data from NSSO reaffirmed that there is a high level of illiteracy among Muslims and a low level of general education, trapping the community in a vicious circle of poverty. Do you think wearing Hijab is more important than education?
I wonder how hard it gets for a woman to defy manipulation and mansplaining without education. The hypocrisy is that though the Muslim organisations, especially those having women’s wings; show concern for Muslim women time and again, did educating or training us ever crossed their minds. Is Hijab an issue for us?
The eradication of Triple Talaq doesn’t promise any solace to Muslim women distressed due to patriarchy that oppresses them across religious, social, economic and cultural boundaries. It can be discerned with sufficient certainty through mere observation of the status of Muslim women and women in general. Do you think Hijab is an issue for us?
Ghazala Jamil in her book ‘Muslim Women Speak: Of Dreams and Shackles’ articulates accurately that problem is in the public sphere. Indian Muslim women’s voice is merged, dissolved and thus lost in the Muslim male voice. Raising their voice is more important than wearing Hijab.
Indian Muslim women’s experience concerning patriarchy is indeed different from non-Muslim women’s. The most significant difference is the politicization of their liberation. Do you think Hijab is an issue for them?
The first and perhaps the most important step in Muslim women’s empowerment is not wearing Hijab, but platforming their voices without letting it be subdued by men’s voices –Muslim or otherwise. There is a need to view Muslim women’s predicament in its interaction with Islam and finally with the overarching patriarchy.
A paper by Ramphul Ohlen titled ‘Muslim Women in India: Status of Demographic, Socioeconomic and Health Inequalities’ undertakes an examination of demographic, socio-economic and health inequalities faced by Muslim women in India and concludes that the proportion of Muslim women workforce in India’s total women workforce is less than their share in the country’s total women population. The real empowerment does not rest with adopting Hijab.
According to a paper by Ramphul Ohlan titled ‘Muslim Women in India: Status of Demographic, Socioeconomic and Health Inequalities, Muslim women are poorer than other minority communities. Wearing Hijab was not going to feed their families.
According to a paper by Ramphul Ohlan titled ‘Muslim Women in India: Status of Demographic, Socioeconomic and Health Inequalities, Muslim women do not have access to money and micro-credit and have negligible involvement in household economics. Adopting Hijab was not going to change their conditions.
A paper by Ramphul Ohlan titled ‘Muslim Women in India: Status of Demographic, Socioeconomic and Health Inequalities’ recommends that there is an urgent need to establish educational institutes aimed at Muslim women, improve access to health services and provide support in professional skill development. Adopting Hijab was not going to strengthen their health conditions.
Muslim women do not want Hijab for development, but they need government policies that aid their empowerment, their participation in the Indian workforce, their health, living standard, their literacy and their financial stability.
There is a greater need within the Muslim community to balance religious and modern education so that its women population is capable enough to secure a brighter future for themselves so that they can contribute in community welfare and development. Muslim organizations should stop diverting attention toward Hijab.
It needs to be stressed that Indian Muslim women need to understand their value, place and responsibility and equip themselves according to changing circumstances and at the same time assert their Muslimness. Hijab is not what they need to improve their social status.
Wearing Hijab is not the most important aspect of women in Islam but the recognition as a separate and independent identity and having numerous economic rights such as the right to own property, share inheritance, engage in various economic activities to increase their fortune etc. in the light of teachings of Quran.
The prevailing idea of the Hijab being an integral part of Islam is the result of ignorance of the teachings of Islam.
Extremists amongst Muslims want the Hijab issue to gain momentum so that they may get the chance to suppress Muslim women in the name of purdah and curtail their movement in society.
At present, thousands of Muslim women without wearing Hijab are successfully running businesses and multinational companies and working in different hospitals, banks, schools, colleges and many other congenial working places.
“And whoever does righteous good deeds-male or female and is a true believer in the Oneness of Allah, such will enter Paradise and not the least injustice, even to the size of a Naqira” (Quran 4:124) – Is wearing Hijab necessary to ease your way to paradise?
“The person to whom a daughter is born and he does not mete out preferential treatment to boys, Allah will reward him with heaven” (Hadith). Hijab was certainly not mentioned in this verse while mentioning daughters.
As per Islamic teachings, women receive money in the form of bride price (Mehr) which she gets from her husband. She has a lawful share in the parental property too. Is wearing Hijab a criterion to get your share in parental property?
Along with Islamic education, it is incumbent to embellish women with the formal education system. If even one woman gets enlightened with education, the whole family of hers, will probably, get enlightened. Hijab is certainly not a necessity to get an education.
One who studies Islam will rightly know the condition of women in Arab society before the emergence of Islam and after it. There are special rights laid down in Islam for women, which increase their status and empower them from all dimensions and Hijab was not an integral part of this empowerment.
Right from marriage or education to business, women in Islam are free to make their choice without any constraint and Hijab is not a necessity to achieve her rights.
So-called torch bearers of Muslim rights had a negligible number of women in the decision making or advisory bodies of these organizations. When they can’t provide proper representatives of Muslim women in their organizations, how can they support them in their families and societies?
Does this include necessarily following the hijab system?

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The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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