What is happening in Iran these days is world-historical. The entire country is rising up against a brutal, violent, repressive regime that the people of Iran have endured for over forty years, and the most courageous of all are little schoolgirls who have their whole lives ahead of them and thus the most to lose. Yet while practically the entirety of what used to be called the free world is cheering on the demonstrators who are standing unarmed against ruthless security forces, one imam in Texas is not happy at all. Yasir Qadhi, one of the most prominent Muslim clerics and Islamic apologists in the United States, recently likened the protests in Iran to protesting for the right to walk around nude in Texas. Yes, he really did.
The East Plano Islamic Center’s YouTube channel, EPIC Masjid (which has nearly 300,000 subscribers), recently posted a video of Qadhi explaining that to oppose Iran’s mandatory hijab law, which some women have received ten-year prison sentences for violating, is tantamount to opposing public indecency laws in the good old USA. Qadhi said: “In the last two weeks, I have been inundated with dozens of emails with one particular focus or theme… regarding the enforcement of the hijab in a particular country, and apparently, it caused the death of somebody and whatnot.” Qadhi explained that he wasn’t a political commentator, and so he said he wasn’t going to name the country or get into the political issues involved.
Qadhi said that he received a question from one of his followers, a high-school girl: “Is it true that our religion forces the women to wear the hijab? Can an Islamic government have this right? Shouldn’t worship be done freely?” Qadhi responded by warning about getting involved in hypothetical issues that are far beyond our own responsibility: “I am not responsible for something happening five thousand miles away.” He then launched into a lengthy critique of Western secularism, comparing it unfavorably to Islamic law, and argued that all countries, including those in the secular West, enforce codes of morality; they just differ in their content.
On that basis, Qadhi then advanced a curious argument: “Even in the West,” he explained, “there are laws against indecency, and there are moral prescriptions about what one can and should and must wear.” He added: “If you show certain parts of the body, and if you show certain organs of your body, you shall be fined, and if you continue to do so, you shall go to jail. Now, the issue therefore is not over, Can the state control what you can or cannot show. The issue is, How much can you show? So some Middle Eastern countries might have a lot more. And, uh, here in America, it is a lot less. But the notion of the state telling you a minimal amount that you can wear, that is pretty much universal.”
That’s true as far as it goes, but Qadhi is ignoring the fact that women have received draconian and disproportionate sentences for not wearing the hijab, and 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was killed in police custody after being arrested for not wearing her hijab properly in the eyes of the security forces. That already takes the protests in Iran far beyond any question of the right of the state to make laws regarding public indecency. Nor is brutality against Muslim women who dare not to wear the hijab limited to Iran. Aqsa Parvez’s Muslim father choked her to death with her hijab after she refused to wear it. Amina Muse Ali was a Christian woman in Somalia whom Muslims murdered because she wasn’t wearing a hijab. Forty women were murdered in Iraq in 2007 for not wearing the hijab. Alya Al-Safar’s Muslim cousin threatened to kill her and harm her family because she stopped wearing the hijab in Britain. Amira Osman Hamid faced whipping in Sudan for refusing to wear the hijab. An Egyptian girl, also named Amira, committed suicide after being brutalized by her family for refusing to wear the hijab. Muslim and non-Muslim teachers at the Islamic College of South Australia were told they had to wear the hijab or be fired. Women in Chechnya were shot with paintballs by police because they weren’t wearing hijab. Other women in Chechnya were threatened by men with automatic rifles for not wearing hijab.
Elementary school teachers in Tunisia were threatened with death for not wearing hijab. Syrian schoolgirls were forbidden to go to school unless they wore hijab. Women in Gaza were forced by Hamas to wear hijab. Women in London were threatened with murder by Muslim thugs if they didn’t wear hijab. An anonymous young Muslim woman doffed her hijab outside her home and started living a double life in fear of her parents. Fifteen girls in Saudi Arabia 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. A girl in Italy had her head shaved by her mother for not wearing hijab.
In the face of all this and more, Yasir Qadhi scoffs at “this notion of fetishizing the hijab and the headscarf, and saying ‘Oh, they have the right to not wear it,’” and asks, “Well then, why aren’t these same people fighting for the rights of nudity here in Texas? Why aren’t they fighting for the rights of no man and woman — or sorry, every man and woman — to wear nothing in every single state in Europe and every single country and city across the world?”
Maybe because no one is killing those who are guilty of public indecency in Texas. In fact, sometimes they get to play James Madison’s flute. The issue in Iran is all about a barbaric, brutal, repressive regime that kills its own people. Qadhi is just obfuscating, although he does raise an important question: can someone who supports Sharia as fully as he does accept the existence of a secular society on an indefinite basis?