The Headscarf Phenomenon

A few days ago there was a tribune on the topic " Hijab , why not ? " maintained in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The main goal of the tribune was to send a message to the public about the meaning of headscarf and that those women who participated in it have chosen to wear it by their own free will. Hosted by various women intellectuals such as journalists , poets , professors , directors, women who are active not only in their private but also in public lives. They sent a message to women on the necessity of education and higher engagement in social and political activities.Their goal is also to break false stereotypes of women who have chosen to wear a headscarf. Those stereotypes vary, from viewing Muslim women as uneducated, oppressed, "stuck in middle age".

By mere curiosity, I started to read the comments from some portals and Facebook pages on that subject. 90% of comments are resembled vomit of pure ignorance and primitivism. The paradox is that some members of the same nation who are obsessed, and infatuated with European principles of progress, tolerance, education , freedom, general democratic principles can be boils down to a level that represents them as supporters of a totalitarian , undemocratic regime.

Of course, we should not pay much attention to comments on various portals or in general to create a perception of a " real " situation in the society based on them, just because most of those who post inappropriate comments are uneducated and misinformed. Smart and educated people do not waste their time writing comments in such discussions were all human principles are overrun and they are already dealing with a smarter business. That is also why we don't see much support for Muslim women who have chosen to cover their hair. However, we see that some members of that "we want in Europe" nation implement their not so tolerant ideology to "members of the Wahhabi movement," and in general the hijab.

What is interesting is often linking concepts of hijab – backwardness – illiteracy – Middle Ages – Afghanistan. However, so far, no one has ever been able to prove a seemingly natural connection between the cloth that is covering the head and automatically, in some miraculous way, the insertion of the same piece of cloth of covering the mind. There are frequent comments such as " its unimaginable for me to see a covered, Muslim woman which is also doctor of science." This concludes as only a sign of an individual's lack of information and lack of experience with women who have covered their hair, women who are educated, uneducated, who are PhDs, intellectuals, chauffeur, housewives ... Of course, our own experience greatly influences the creation of our perception which may or may not be based on reality.

Covered woman, which had only positive experiences because of her headscarf would think probably this is a tolerant society in which there is room for both private and public practice of religion, notwithstanding one that has had a negative experience will feel like a victim of discrimination and prejudice. The point is that discrimination in Bosnia and Herzegovina exist just as tolerance, love, compassion and support to women with headscarf exist. Discrimination mostly comes from people who have the syndrome of nostalgia for “beautiful” paradise of communist rule …We can conclude also that many Muslim women often have wrong approach to solving this society’s problem of intolerance and misconceptions towards them. Often using verses from the Qur’ an about God’s punishment and how it can befall on them at any time and repeating the same phrases, without any further explanation, over and over again such as ” Headscarf protects women from being raped and views as a sexual object”, ” Headscarf make men respect women”… Within each conversation, one should always talk with correspondent in the language he can understand, having also in mind the nature of mentality that shaped his personality and opinion. In the Western society, phrases like that might seem ridiculous and might cause more misconceptions such as, that Islam sexualizes women, that Muslim men are human beings only of lust, seeing women as object of their desires and not as if they have intellect and personality and therefore there is the need of headscarf.

It seems naive to think that by only wearing the headscarf, the percentage of rape cases and sexual harassments would decrease. Headscarf is only one link in the chain that Islam prescribes to create and keep a society safe and moral. Expecting to solve moral problems of society only by filling that link and at the same time not fixing the way male population is viewing women, not fighting against objectification and sexualization of women is unrealistic. Domestic violence and sexual harrassments won’t change if many other links and problems in society are not solved.

Also, one of the important things is to distinguish bigotry from cultural shock. Western people might find it strange and won’t understand why some women chosed to cover their heads and faces in these modern days where all rights should be guarantee for women.

What is interesting that often both sides, Western and Eastern view women on the “opposite side” as oppressed and exploited. Women from East looking at the billboards where half naked female bodies are imposed all over the streets might see that as a sign of sick society and exploitation of female bodies. On the other hand, the way women are dressed up in East, banning women to drive, allowing men to have four wives, many propagandas of violent nature of Muslim men, could impact that Western see them the same way.

Often, misconceptions of Muslim women is that they are uneducated, forbidden to work, to live, to have a career…Of course, illusions and stereotypes are often the result of lacking and personal interaction with covered women. If someone don’t interact with certain group of people how can things be seen objectively?

Wasn’t the goal of tribune “Headscarf, why not?” to represent Muslim women in real light and to give the chance to the public to see things objectively? Some covered women are educated, some are not, some are intellectuals, some are not, some are plain housewives, some are not! All that diversity of those women, in the way they dress, they way they think, their personalities, careers, professions, activities…

One of the biggest mistakes of certain group of people is that they are forming their opinion based on their personal desires. In any conversation, their goal is to defend their opinion at any cause, not wanting to come to the truth.

Note, pointing finger at these women who participated in tribune”Headscarf, why not?” accusing them for primitivism only because they cover their head, while they were showing women the necessity of education, means that three fingers are pointing back at them. Who is primitive in this case?