Freedom from the Hijab

Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a former senior fellow at the Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington, DC and is a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. He can be reached at rafizadeh@fas.harvard.edu. Follow Rafizadeh at @majidrafizadeh.


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Photo credit: Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women

For 35 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has forced millions of Iranian women and young girls to wear a chador, hijab, or other form covering to hide their bodies and hair. Girls are ordered to wear a hijab at the age of eight or nine.

The moral police have been deployed to crack down on those women who do not fully comply with this Islamic rule. 

Growing up in the Islamic Republic, I saw how many women and girls felt it intolerable to wear a hijab, not only because it breached the personal freedoms of each citizen, but also because they found it difficult to wear a hijab on hot desert days throughout the year. One of my university friends, Sahar, dreamt to one day be able to walk freely down the street, wearing whatever she liked, feeling the breeze, the wind blowing through her hair, and not having to wear this mandatory covering that had been part of her public life since she was eight years old. 

One day, I attempted to help Sahar fulfill her dream and I took her to a field far from the eyes of the Islamic moral police, and she walked, ran, and jumped around without a scarf like a child. It felt as if she had been released from prison, like she was capable of feeling this simple pleasure of freedom for the first time.  Nevertheless, we were still afraid that there might be a governmental observer or a spy hiding somewhere. It was not a totally liberating experience. 

This simple individual freedom might be taken for granted by women in the Western democratic world. And some might find it comical, ridiculous, or bizarre to have such a simple dream. But this is truly a dream for millions of Iranian women. 

The summer is coming and the heat reaches over 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Iran.  Working a full day with a thick hijab around your head and body can also cause serious health problems. 

The battle between the Iranian regime, its moral Islamic police and women continues even after 35 years. When the summer comes, women attempt to push the boundaries of the religion and law by sliding their scarves a little bit back, making it looser in order to divert the heat or feel some breeze and wind. 

The Islamic moral police though, ratchet up their crack down in the summer. The parliament is currently passing a new law that would work to enforce this dress code more strictly in the summer. They fine women, arrest them, detain them, jail them or even torture them if they keep resisting the Sharia and Islamic law of the land. 

I believe that the Islamic law of Iran that forces and orders women to wear a mandatory hijab, and the Sharia law that punishes women who defy this rule, are not only ideological and religious, but are a means of control over women. These are legal, political, and judiciary instruments to control women’s bodies, subjugate them and humiliate them. 

As a woman, if one would like to be promoted in a career, the regime imposes a much stricter dress code regarding the hijab, where no part of the body should be shown. Many people have lost their jobs due to this Islamic law.

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Photo credit: Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women

Intriguingly, one of the ways that Iranian women have started to fight back is through Facebook and other social media platforms. A Persian Facebook page has recently been created called “Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women.” On this page, Iranian women post their photos flaunting their hair, taking their hijabs off secretly in public spheres such as in streets, parks, mountains, and even in front of religious institutions.

A young Iranian girl posted a picture of herself without her scarf in front of one of the Grand Ayatollah’s offices. She wrote, “We will move faster until you comprehend what we can do, whatever you say, we will do the opposite, hoping for freedom.”

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Photo credit: Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women

Another Iranian women posted a picture of herself, standing in water in one of the governmental fields. She said, “Freedom is a right of every human being. Freedom… happiness… colorfulness… is the right of every Iranian woman. Freedom is a right, and rights are to be fought for and obtained! They will not give it to you. So we will attain our rights ourselves.”

A husband takes a photo of his wife in Masooleh, in the north of Iran. It is posted on the Facebook page with almost 3000 likes in one day. She is jumping in the air spreading her hands and feeling the breeze through her hair. She writes, “Here is Masooleh. We searched and searched until we found a place devoid of any observer! It was us… and the sun and the spring breeze! We jumped and pranced until we got tired and then lay down on the grass and slept a few hours without having to worry. If you cannot bear to see these stealthy freedoms we breed for ourselves, then see it and burn. Taken by my dear husband.” 

Yes, having a dream that one day they could walk through the streets or university dormitories with the wind blowing through their hair is something many women think of every day.  

I totally agree that some women wear the hijab of their own volition (or to be more precise, I truly believe that they have been indoctrinated by the religion, Imams, fear of Islam, fear of Allah’s punishment, or empty promises of comfort in this life and afterlife), but this does not mean all women should be forced and ordered to wear this thick cloth over their bodies, which does not have any other purpose other than hurting oneself. 

I remember my youngest sister, when she was 9 years old, would wake up almost everyday for several months in the middle of night having nightmares because her teacher and school’s Imam said that if they take of their hijab, that God has said they will be hung from their hair and tongue infinitely in Jahanam (hell) and that they will be burned over and over again for millions of years. What a merciful and lovely God (Allah) who does such things!

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  • Dan Pollack

    It is interesting that the verse that is used to force women to wear the hijab [24:31], which is not specifically mentioned in the Qur’an, starts with the same commandment to men [24,30]: To reduce [some] of their vision… Why do men not wear a hijab? Because they can stamp their feet when they walk?

  • Dan Pollack

    It is interesting that the verse that is used to force women to wear the hijab [24:31], which is not specifically mentioned in the Qur’an, starts with the same commandment to men [24,30]:Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. Why do men not wear a hijab? Because they can stamp their feet when they walk?

    • Moa

      Islamic women didn’t have to wear hijab. It only came about when Muslims started talking about 50-year old Mohammed’s scandalous ‘marriage’ to 6 year old Aisha bint Ali Bakr. Only then did Mohammed command women to be covered. At least this is what the ahadith say.

      • Softly Bob

        Yes that’s correct. In another Hadith Mohammed was jealous of men ogling his wives every time they came into his tent so he ordered a cover up.
        The hijab and the burqa are just a result of Mohammed’s personal insecurities and failures as a man.

      • Dan Pollack

        Is it not taught to obey only what is in the Qur’an and following any other belief is heresy? (Sorry, I forgot the citation.) But should not the men wear the burqa based upon 24:30 “Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts.” which is the male counterpart to 24:31 “And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts…” From this one SHOULD understand, that men should wear AT LEAST a modified style of burqa that would impinge upon their peripheral vision or more.

        Further, if Mohammed had to order his wives to cover, why did he not teach the men to not ogle other men’s wives? It is like the Bedouin who looks into others yards to see if there are goods worth taking. He does not see it as stealing, that is his birthright. However, when caught and sent fleeing, he runs as a guilty man would run. He has not the courage to stand up for himself. Is this to say that Mohammed surrounded himself with Bedouin who do not know proper social behavior?

        AS most Muslim clerics, I find you refuse to talk TO THE ISSUE at hand.

        I add one more question. How can you be sure what the Qur’an really says, now that ancient manuscripts have been found and investigated. They show paragraphs rearrange, transposed or moved to whole new sections of the manuscript, and ALL is written without the “music”/diacritical markings of Arabic. This last fact making it next to IMPOSSIBLE to understand the Qur’an. Why are there so many translations of the Qur’an and each one is just a little different from the last? IS it like the Christian bible that, not being read in the original has to be modified for succeeding and ignorant generations?

  • swemson

    Winston Churchill, while speaking of Islam said:

    “A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.”

    There is no place for this barbaric cult of death in the modern civilized world, and we had best take heed of the lessons already learned by the Europeans, before we allow any more of them into our country.

    A good first step would be getting rid of the illegal muslim immigrant living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

    fs

    • Icarus62

      Islam is incompatible with freedom, democracy, human rights, morality and simple human decency. It’s certainly not something we want to be a “great power among men”. On those points I’m sure we would agree. However, short of an all-out pogrom against Muslims, it’s hard to know what to do about the problem.

      • http://batman-news.com chuckie2u

        But Islam can be used by the Marxist in Washington to subjugate the undereducated public and git rid of those pesky Christians.It is all about control.

      • Softly Bob

        I agree, so pogrom it is then!

    • Badger Fan

      If Churchill were alive today, the Muslims would bomb him, or his family, or both! Islam is a religion straight out of the GUTTER!

  • http://batman-news.com chuckie2u

    Where are all those feminist in America who burned their bra’s and demanded their equal rights to do as they pleased with their bodies ? They are so silent when it comes to giving those same freedoms to their sisters in Muslim lands. Then again they are doing as they are told by their Government masters.

    • Softly Bob

      That’s because there are no feminists in America, just loud-mouthed dragons who call themselves feminists.
      The real feminists are in Iran.

    • billobillo54

      Great point. The answer to your question is: “never.” Islam, atheism and post modern secular liberalism have a undeniable yet ironic attraction. The common elements of sexual license, authoritarianism, socialism, abortion rights, hatred of Christianity, hatred of Jews and Israel, hatred of republican government virtues bind them.

    • Habbgun

      Absolutely. If Jewish and Christian women dress modestly its “patriarchy”. If Moslem women are hounded its racism and islamophobia not to applaud Islamist governments for doing it. At some point you have to believe some of these Leftists are closet Moslems practicing Taqqiya. It only makes sense on their side if what they really believe is “patriarchy” is wrong when practiced by infidels. If not I’d love to see why one set of cultural beliefs is protected and other beliefs attacked.

      • SCREW SOCIALISM

        Great comment Habbgun.

        I see that regressive progressives hate America and its allies.

        The left considers any enemy of America is a friendship worth developing and siding with.

        Despite claims of “progressiveness”, the left is willing to and does cast off its “progressiveness” to ally with regressive, ultra CONSERVATIVE Islam.

  • billobillo54

    To demonstrate how President Obama supports Islam in its most repressive and misogynistic mode here is a quote from him on the reality of the hijab: “T]he U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it. [...] [I]t is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit – for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism. [...] I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal.”

  • Lightbringer

    As an observant Jewish woman, I also adhere to a dress code, but — and here is the big difference — it is by my choice. Nobody forces me to cover my hair or wear long sleeves and skirts, I do it because I choose to. Nobody, not my husband, or my rabbi, or anyone else, forces me. And that makes a huge difference.

  • Ahmad79

    All Western women should wear Hijab. They have become sexual tool and toys for the capitalists society. All they think of is how shorter they should wear, how much more skin to show….to please others. They are tools for the other gender (men)

    • Notalibfool

      No one should be forced to wear a hijab. What do you know about western women and capitalism? Obviously not a darn thing. Our women are NOT tools for men.

      The sad reality is that Muslim women are forced to wear hijabs because they are being oppressed. None of my female family members will EVER be coerced into wearing a hijab, and we will NEVER accept sharia.

      One more thing: What punishment should a person receive for refusing to convert to Islam? Please just give me a straight, coherent answer.

      • Notalibfool

        Nearly a day later and Ahmad STILL hasn’t answered my question. I’ve noticed that each and every time I ask either there is no response at all or the person blurts out some incoherent nonsense.

        Doesn’t it make you think that there is something to hide? Perhaps the real answer contradicts the religion of peace narrative.

    • Boogie’s Daddy

      Muslim men are experts in what again? Your fake concern for the welfare of western women is disgusting. But, I’m sure you feel the same way about goats.

    • Nonbeliever

      The words “low IQ” and “inbred” come to mind while reading your comments, but I’m much too polite to say such things.

    • Mid_Century_Modern

      When I see the how many Muslim men rape Western women it is obvious that they are tools for your depraved and sick minds. Have another shot of camel piss Ahmad.

    • Drakken

      I can’t wait until us westerners bring that final Crusade to bare on you effing inbred, dirty, bloody savages and finally be done with your kind once and for all time! Our women are not cattle, and the sooner you understand that, the better you will be, unfortunately you bloody savages won’t get it until your cities burn. No more islam, no more problems.

  • Angelina

    Wow, Dr. Majid really does not fear his life by speaking for these women. Courageous, brave.

  • wileyvet

    It’s pretty pathetic that Iran has a moral police to enforce laws based on the teachings and practices of the most immoral person who ever lived. We all know the character of Muhammad and his alter ego Allah. Fear and submission are the hallmarks of Islam and eternal torment by a cruel sadistic god for those who are renegades or hypocrites. An all powerful god does not need mankind to prostrate themselves in mind numbing ritualistic obedience. An omnipotent creator cannot be so insecure that the slightest offence consigns one to hellfire with no chance to atone for such transgressions. As a religion of predestination, Islam demands its followers to submit; but to what end? It does not matter if you pray 5 times or 500 times per day. You can go on Hajj everyday, fast month in and month out, pay your entire wage in Zakat or wear the Hijab and it does not get you one step closer to your creator. All of it is pointless. Personal salvation as found in Christian doctrine does not exist in Islam. So why do Muslims follow the personal doctrine of their prophet, that denies them free will, and believe that freedom of choice can somehow be reconciled with Islam? It can’t. If Muslims wish to have the freedom that they see in non Islamic countries, they have to renounce Islam. That is, they have to denounce Muhammad because without him there is no more Islam. Muhammadism, as Islam should be properly known, never has nor ever can provide freedom and personal liberty.

  • mtnhikerdude

    Islam , the religion of 1600 Pennsylvania in D.C.

  • mtnhikerdude

    It is not in a woman’s nature to dress up in a tent.

  • Blake

    stupid worthless muslims

    • Dan Pollack

      Stupid, relatively. Worthless? Not really. They make tolerably good slaves, if you have enough drivers.

  • liz

    The names change, but totalitarianism stays the same. You can dress it up in a fancy hijab and excuse it with “multiculturalism”, but Sharia is still totalitarian enslavement, and Islam is a barbaric relic from the primitive past.
    It is an embarrassment to the human race that anyone still submits to this insult to the intelligence in the 21st century.

  • tworules

    Have a look at this.
    If a religious couple decline to bake a wedding cake for gays on the grounds of conscience, The according to the UN HRC. its bigotry homophobia etc.
    So sexual discrimination issues trump consciences religious needs.
    If a woman complains to the HRC that gender segregation is being applied In a marshal arts class on the wants of a Muslim student then they say that his religious needs must be accommodated.
    So according to the U.N., in the case of the bakers, discrimination against a sexual group trumps religious accommodation (Christian religion.)
    But in the case of the Muslim marshal arts student, religion trumps gender bias issues.
    I Think that the hypocrisy is manifestly evident.

  • Drakken

    You want to end this crap, simple, hunt and kill the ayatollahs, religious police and Islamic nutjobs that want to oppress you. Until that happens, you muslim women will suffer. Sorry but protesting violent me only encourages them to be more violent, when they fear the unexpected, they will stop.

  • allahhhhhhhh

    Damn if these chicks are taking off their towels then they better ban cucumbers stat

  • doruss03

    The head the most important part of the human body and should never be covered up. It is very unhealthy and it will decrease your lifespan. In Canada you are free to walk without the hot rags you simply throw them in the garbage.

  • NorthAmerican

    The men would have everybody believe women love to be covered up head to toe, they have no compassion for women even though they all passed through a women’s vulva.
    Respect your mothers, your sisters and your fellow human beings.

  • Badger Fan

    Women love Islam. I mean what woman would not love a prophet who takes a 9 year old girl as one of his brides and then consumates the marriage and gives the girl a play toy as a wedding gift! I bet at 9 years old, she was a lot tighter than his camel plaything. Islamic women who love the prophet, deserve everything that is coming to them from Sharia law! LOL…And BTW, get the heck out of the USA you Muslim females. What kind of suicide bombs are you concealing under your “religious clothing”.

  • Bikaz Dizoncavello

    Proofs that Muslim women can show their faces, hands, feet and even hair!
    islamhaters.skyrock.com/3109058137-Women-in-Islam.html

  • ralbaii@aol.com

    As William Wallce (Braveheart) said: “Frrrrrrrreeeeeeeeedom!!!!!!”

  • Nicolas Genare

    Refusing to wear the hijab is the same thing of fighting a symptom without curing the disease.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIEp8xtnw8Q