The normalization of the hijab

January 6, 2017 • 12:45 pm

This poster was in the Divinity School (presenter is a hijabi grad student there; I saw it when I went to get my lunch at the coffeehouse (motto: “Where God drinks coffee”).

What do you think are the chances that the lecturer will say anything about the social pressure to wear it or that its “theology” isn’t in the Qur’an, but has been confected later to ensure that women don’t excite the lust of men by showing a wisp of hair? Will it even be touted as a “feminist statement”?

Frankly, I’m tired of men making women responsible for controlling the male libido.

And. . . willย there be a Burqa 101?


And should I offer a course called “Yarmulke 101”?

UPDATE: Reader Pliny the in Between produced a response at his/her site The Far Corner Cafe:


81 thoughts on “The normalization of the hijab

  1. “… or that its “theology” isn’t in the Qur’an, but has been confected later …”

    I did not know that!… nor the Hadith?…

      1. But somebow, unlike some other cultural practices such a FGM they have chosen not to disown when ot suits them. Or is FGM just another choice women should be free to make?

  2. To me a hijab is as offensive to women as displaying a confederate flag is offensive to African Americans. The wearer may not intend it, but the offensive message is loud and clear.

    1. Just to add to that, displaying a confederate flag is pretty offensive to me in a Northern State that had many fight and die in that war. If some southern crackers want to fly the thing in Alabama, so what, but anyone flying the thing in Illinois or Iowa should be seriously looked at for mental problems. Guess I’m just saying you do not have to be black to be offending by someone flying that thing.

      1. There are a lot of African Americans and just generally sane people living in the south, including Alabama, whom the flag offends.

  3. About “The Divinity School” : I used to be fascinated that (?) Emerson was in the divinity school (of Harvard).

    1. Emerson’s famous Divinity School address was where he openly declared break from conventional Christianity.

        1. Castrating all the males of a group means that group could not reproduce, which means it would cease to exist in a generation.

          “Genocide” applies to the wiping out of any group or ethnicity, and killing off all Muslims would wipe out many ethnic groups.

          I didn’t say it was your suggestion, but you seemed to be implying it would be a good idea.

          1. See article 2 preamble and part d) of UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

            Billy Bl.’s post counts as genocidally intentioned.

          2. He didn’t say ‘killing off’ anybody. He said stopping them reproducing.

            Genocide gets a bad name because it usually involves killing people on the basis of their ethnicity. Obviously atrocious. But it gets tossed around too freely.

            If one persuaded some ethnic group – intentionally or otherwise – to abandon their cultural practices and assimilate (as we all fervently wish some Muslims would) – is that genocide? We have ‘wiped out’ that group but without disadvantaging any person in it. Considering the cultural practices of *some* ethnic groups, I’d say that would be all for the better.

            (To make it clear, I’m not supporting compulsory castration of anybody, though persuading any group to have fewer damn kids is surely a good idea).


          1. As he said, he wasn’t suggesting killing anybody. So, no, it wouldn’t be as bad as murdering apostates.

            (Not that I’m approving of it).


          2. Thanks for the support. I don’t know how “not a suggestion” became “a suggestion”. I guess most people see what they want to see.

          3. How would you like to have been castrated at birth just because of the religion of your parents? My father was a WASP, anti-Semitic, racist, sexisr homophobe. If someone decided he should be castrated because of his attitudes, which mostly came from his religion, my siblings and I wouldn’t have been born. None of us share his values, and my nieces and nephews aren’t being brought up that way either.

          4. I get the feeling that Billy was saying this tongue in cheek and suggesting that macho atttidues embedded in Islamic culture is the source of the persecution of women in Islamic countries.

          5. @Diana
            Absolutely agree with you there.

            You did read my last sentence, did you? (The one in brackets)? That ‘wouldn’t have been born’ argument is always bogus and usually used by anti-abortionists, by the way.


          6. My original comment contained a message that seems to have gone over many people’s heads. So this will be like explaining a joke to people who didn’t get it (and for them, I had better state here that I am not saying my original comment was meant as a joke – please notice the “not” this time). The original story to which I commented was about hijabs, which many women are forced to wear so that men won’t become sexually aroused by these temptresses. If all Muslim men were eunuchs, Muslim women would then not have to wear hijabs. If all Muslim men were eunuchs, most, if not all, that’s bad about Islam would not exist. Sure, there’s an occasional female suicide bomber, but virtually all that is bad about Islam is associated with men. Anyone who thought I was seriously advocating castration apparently just didn’t get it. If our host had been one of them, I would have been banned, as anyone should be if they do seriously advocate castration. By the way, sterilising women would be a better way to end a culture. Testosterone still serves a purpose in the construction industry.

          7. @infiniteimpropabilitit None of my comments was directed at you. I did see where you were coming from. I also agree the argument is actually a crap one, I’ve never lowered myself to it before, and I wouldn’t even consider it in a more serious situation.

            @Diana I’ve got mixed up with who I’m talking to and who I’m not. I can see most here are tongue in cheek, and never doubted otherwise.

            However you meant the original and follow-up comments by @Billy Bl., I felt like there was too much seriousness for them to be ignored. Sorry if you think I lack a sense of humour. I don’t think comments like that are funny. Sorry if I’ve got you wrong.

          8. I think I know you too well to know that you have a good sense of humour @Heather!! I think you just may have interpreted Billy’s intentions differently than they actually were, which is easy to do online.

          9. That reads like I don’t have a sense of humour Diana! ๐Ÿ˜€

            I had a really weird dream a couple of nights ago. At one point you turned up and I screamed abuse at you. Don’t ask me why – it was a very strange dream and nothing made sense. All I remember is it was actually me who was the one in the wrong.

          10. @Heather
            I didn’t take it personally. Like Diana, I think Billy Bl’s comment was not intended literally.

            P.S. I should be ‘infiniteimprobabilitY’ not ‘infiniteimprobabiliTIT’ ๐Ÿ™‚ but either way, for some unfathomable reason, WordPress chops my end off. ๐Ÿ™

          11. I’ve always wondered why the “y” at the end wasn’t there. I’ll use it in future. ๐Ÿ™‚ I suspect it’s one letter too many for WordPress.

          12. The odd thing is that gravelinspector-aidan manages to get his whole name through unmutilated, and that’s one letter more than WP will allow me…

            It’s discrimination I tell you!


          13. It’s being from NZ – they can’t have us thinking we’re as fully valid as those from bigger (i. e. more populous) nations. We might get ideas above our station! ๐Ÿ˜€

            (I have actually been told several times on-line my opinion doesn’t count because I don’t come from the US. Aidan doesn’t either, but he is from a G7 country.)

          14. I’ve been told that too but my Prime Minister just shuffled his cabinet to deal with Trump and Trump wants to kill the NAFTA which will mess up the Canadian economy (and the American economy). Trade is going to be a hassle with our biggest trading partner.

          15. @Diana Fareed Zakaria did an interview with former Secretary of State James Baker the other day. He said NAFTA was one of their best FTAs and had helped the US immensely.

            Trump is always going on about how the FTAs were negotiated by weak, bad negotiators. As far as the rest of us are concerned, the US always gets everything it wants in FTAs and it’s bloody irritating. We wish they did have bad, weak negotiators.

          16. Indeed. Canada even sells electricity to the US cheaper than Canadians can buy it. My dad lost his job immediately when NAFTA came in because his company moved manufacturing to the US then Mexico.

          17. @Heather
            Well I must admit I occasionally poke NZ with a sharp pointy stick because, where I am, it *is* the environment.

            But discounting anyone’s opinions because of where they’re from is invalid.

            (More relevantly, I tried typing ‘gravelinspector-aidan’ into the ‘name’ box here and it cut him short too. He must have some cunning way around it).


          18. @Heather
            – re FTA’s (Trade agreements) and weak negotiators, I most heartily agree!


          19. In the spirit of Herod the Great, we could run a sample experiment. We’d have to give the nod to those ethics bods and introduce some liberal roolz just to keep the human rights extremists happy. Maybe find some Muslim volunteers happy to castrate their wee bairns. If it’s good enough for Alan Turing, it’s good enough for a few Muslims. I suspect we’d be more likely to get good results with the ones we know, much like Psychology experiments often feature undergraduates.

            So I suggest we approach Maajid Nawaz, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, Natasha Fatah, Irshad Manji, Nasser Dashti, Asra Nomani. That’s six, there must be plenty more Muslims out there who would willingly castrate their bouncing baby boys. It’s about time eunuchism made a comeback.

  4. I wonder if she will discuss the age as which she freely chose to wear the … well, I guess hijab, but I also wonder if she will discuss the options if any that were offered to her?

    1. Good question. A follow up would be if she felt such options would be afforded here in Islamic countries and if the hijab means something else there than it does here in the West.

      1. I’d be really interested to see the lecture. I’m not keen on judging before I’ve seen it.

        However, I’m with Jerry on getting really sick of women being made responsible for men controlling themselves.

        Or perhaps Islam wants us left with the impression that their men are too weak to control themselves and the slightest glimpse of female skin turns them into sex-addled nitwits?

  5. … or if she’ll discuss all the other neckerchiefs, head wraps and things that are not hijabs – it all starts to look the same, frankly. Except the burqua, and that other one…

    1. How interesting would Drinking Cow Urine 101 be? Someone has got to invite a Hindu to teach that! Including the history and theology, like should we sip or gulp and which one brings us closer to God.

  6. If women want to wear the hijab, they should be allowed to, but it unfortunately still represents oppression.

    On the other hand, if all imams in the world unanimously agree that the hijab is no longer needed then wearing it ‘because one wants to’ is fair game. Until then, it forces servitude on women.

  7. And should I offer a course called โ€œYarmulke 101โ€?
    I’m not sure you’re the right person to offer it, but from some appropriate speaker it might be interesting.

  8. I think it is clear as you said that the covering dress for women is about control of them, and excusing the behavior of males. Males who are so powerful that they must be in charge at all times, must escort a woman every where, where a woman must at all times defer to the male because he is male, yet these same males are helpless if the see a woman’s hair or skin? It is simply silly to think of. So again, domination of females, freedom of action for males. Hugs

  9. I will never forget when I was in a hotel in Mumbai which, it turned out, was much frequented by oil sheiks or their poorer cousins. I was in the lobby one day when some guy walked in in a t-shirt, shorts and thongs. He was, however, holding the hand of a woman and escorting her, because she was so covered in black from head to foot that she could not even see where she was walking.

    Took a lot of tongue-biting.

    1. He was, however, holding the hand of a woman and escorting her, because she was so covered in black from head to foot that she could not even see where she was walking.

      Why did you assume that the black-cloaked mass was female? It’s perfectly feasible that it was some man that the guy had just picked up on the beach. It would not be the first time that a burkha had been used to cover up a different bit of illegitimate (by whoever’s standards) sex.

        1. Spend more than a few days working in the Gulf and you’ll lose what few illusions you had left. Might be the same in the Mexican Gulf too. Trump’ll have to extend his wall a long way offshore. To about 24N / 75W.

  10. Ha! No Jerry you need to offer a course called “short hair and wigs 101” to be a true parallel to this one. ๐Ÿ˜€

      1. Haha. I always called that “the yarmulke bald spot” but let’s face it, when God is staring at you all the time, it’s bound to leave a mark!

  11. Right wingers these days seem extremely convinced (for quite a variety of reasons) that God does NOT drink coffee at Starbucks, but I suspect few of them will be willing to acknowledge She drinks coffee at U of Chic Divinity school.

  12. And Amish bonnet 101. Wigs in Judaism. Head wrap and flashy hats in the AME. Goonhats for Hindu, Jain and Sikh. I think that we could build at least a minor out of this, and maybe even a major.

    1. I was about to launch a diatribe on all headgear when I remembered, I always wear a hat outside for reasons of belief. (It is my firm belief that if I don’t, I will be smitten by ultraviolet rays which will cause painful sunburn in the place where my hair used to be).

      So I will just have to qualify my derision to apply to non-functional headgear. Which I think applies to most in your list…


  13. This is a one-off informal lecture, not a course module. It will surely expose the un-Quranic nature of the Hiab, either directly and intentionally or, however unintentionally, by glaring omission. We should welcome it.

  14. “no prior knowledge required” …desired,needed or funking necessary as all religious bullshit dictates.
    Just make sure it’s not on to tight, loss of blood to the head is fatal to comprehension, clarity and understanding.

  15. I agree that women should choose whether to wear headscarves. To be frank, however, I admit that I will regard the choice spurious as long as the resulting choice differs from mine :-).

    I mean that, when a vulnerable person is offered a choice between two opportunities, one of which is apparently much better than the other, the mere offer of a choice will be accepted by the “chooser” as pressure.

    This particular choice can be formulated as:

    “Do you want to dress as is habitual for girls and women in this country, to blend nicely in the streets, to have your hair as a frame to your face, to feel the fresh air on your head, to protect it with a fashionable hat when the weather requires it… or do you want to dress as suited to an alien backward culture, to be perceived by nice people as anti-Enlightenment, to be occasionally harassed by mean people, and to suffer head overheating most of the time when you are out of your home?”

    I’ll make an analogy. When I was in elementary school, my class would go on a picnic on a Sunday, but on the same Sunday was scheduled a memorial service for an uncle who had recently died. My father asked me where I preferred to go. As a “good” girl, I of course preferred the memorial service. I felt sad for a long time whenever I remembered the missed picnic. I think my father made a mistake.

  16. Isn’t much of theology across all major religions confected later? They make shit up as they go along. As Dan Barker says, it’s a subject without an object.

    The theology of the hijab is technically what God thinks of the hijab. Clearly there isn’t any agreement on this from theists.

    1. I am beginning to mildly obsess about this ‘subject without an object’ quote. Jerry and you, Chris, ascribe it to Dan Barker. Yet my elder brother, a big James Joyce man, says that Joyce said it. Google only comes up with Dan Barker as the coiner. Yet my brother doesn’t follow Jerry or Dan and he volunteered the quote to me. So it’s an independent source.

      Who is right? And should I start getting worried about my 62 year-old brother’s incipient memory loss?

      1. That’s interesting. I have no qualms if the quote didn’t originate with Barker, there’s a lot of quotes attributed to people who didn’t say them. I think the important thing here is that the quote is accurate. What the hell is it that we’re studying? It seems to be the psychological projections of people who want to attribute their own attitudes on to that of an all powerful deity, which of course, excuses the views from criticism, at least in their minds. Of course, when two conflicting views attributed to the all powerful arise, there’s no solving the conflict other than for each side to claim the other’s signal from the great beyond was somehow muddled.

        Back to the quote, Barker definitely has said it, as <a href=""a post from Jerry indicates, but I don’t know that that answers the question as to whether it originated with him. Any luck finding a source from Joyce?

        1. In answer to your last question, Chris, no. Another quick google brings up one person ascribing the quote to James Joyce and it’s…erm, me, elsewhere.

          If I journeyed for 10 years like Ulysses, I wouldn’t find the quote. I give up and it’s time to get my brother a shrink. Cheers.

  17. Just to clear up some false statements made above:

    There are actually three verses in the Qur’an (24:31, 33:53, and 33:59) which refer to women covering up themselves so as not to draw the sexual advances of any other than their husband. This is where teaching about the hijab finds its theological “justification,” not from later cultural accretions.

    Secondly, it was stated that “no one is Muslim from birth.” In fact, according to Sharia’ law, all children of Muslims are Muslims from birth, but even more telling, according to Islamic theology, all children are from birth Muslim. Since Islam rejects the notion of the fallenness of human nature, it construes the nature of newborns as pure/innocent, and so rightly related to Allah. It is only later social environment and wrong-minded traditions or teachings that lead children away from their original “factory setting” to become confused or ignorant, and so non-Muslim in their stance.

    1. “…all children of Muslims are Muslims from birth…”

      Well, now, that’s sure a load of hooey.

      If Islamic theology stated that people would live to the age of 500 if only they didn’t sin, would that make it true? Of course not.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *