Ilhan Omar: “To Me, the Hijab Means Power, Liberation, Beauty, and Resistance"
What do the Muslim women who are forced to wear it think of that?
Vogue Arabia on Thursday published a glowing puff piece fawning over Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has, said Vogue, “made history in her adopted country,” apparently while hating every minute of it. Life in Trump’s America, she said, is “an everyday assault”; she did not, however, say anything about moving back to that paradise of multiculturalism, her native Somalia. Instead, she is bringing it here, at least in one aspect of Sharia observance: “To me,” she said, “the hijab means power, liberation, beauty, and resistance.” What would the innumerable victims of the hijab say to that?
Omar said nothing about them. Instead, she painted the hijab as if it were entirely a matter of each woman’s free choice: “For me, that is how I raise my kids. I work to remove obstacles so they can live at their best and happiest selves. If that translates to adapting the hijab, that’s fine. If they don’t, that’s also fine. They have freedom of choice. Society tends to place lots of limitations, depending on what gender you are. I want my kids to be free. Walk in your own path. We are as much worthy of joy, power, and pleasure as the next human. We are deserving and we don’t need permission or an invitation to exist and to step into our power.”
Maybe she doesn’t. But what does Ilhan Omar think about Aqsa Parvez, whose Muslim father choked her to death with her hijab after she refused to wear it? Or Amina Muse Ali, a Christian woman in Somalia whom Muslims murdered because she wasn’t wearing a hijab? Has she shown any concern for the 40 women who were murdered in Iraq in 2007 for not wearing the hijab; or for Alya Al-Safar, whose Muslim cousin threatened to kill her and harm her family because she stopped wearing the hijab in Britain; or for Amira Osman Hamid, who faced whipping in Sudan for refusing to wear the hijab; or for the Egyptian girl, also named Amira, who committed suicide after being brutalized by her family for refusing to wear the hijab; or for the Muslim and non-Muslim teachers at the Islamic College of South Australia who were told they had to wear the hijab or be fired; or for the women in Chechnya whom police shot with paintballs because they weren’t wearing hijab; or for the other women in Chechnya who were threatened by men with automatic rifles for not wearing hijab; or for the elementary school teachers in Tunisia who were threatened with death for not wearing hijab; or for the Syrian schoolgirls who were forbidden to go to school unless they wore hijab; or for the women in Gaza whom Hamas has forced to wear hijab; or for the women in Iran who protested against the regime, even before the recent uprising, by daring to take off their hijabs; or for the women in London whom Muslim thugs threatened to murder if they didn’t wear hijab; or for the anonymous young Muslim woman who doffed her hijab outside her home and started living a double life in fear of her parents; or for the fifteen girls in Saudi Arabia who were killed when the religious police wouldn’t let them leave their burning school building because they had taken off their hijabs in their all-female environment; or for the girl in Italy whose mother shaved her head for not wearing hijab; or for all the other women and girls who have been killed or threatened, or who live in fear for daring not to wear the hijab?
Courageous women in the Islamic Republic of Iran are taking off their hijabs as a sign of resistance to the oppressive Sharia regime under which they live, and at least 29 women have been arrested for doing so. For far too many women around the world, the hijab is not a symbol of power, liberation, beauty, and resistance, but of their own powerlessness, oppression, dehumanization and subjugation.
Who is standing in solidarity with them? Not Ilhan Omar. Or Vogue.