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The Right to Choose to Wear (or not) Hijab

Pretty blond catholic girl and beautiful muslim in hijab
Pretty blond catholic girl and beautiful muslim in hijab


Originally, the following essay was published on Brookings, nonprofit public policy organization, written by Shadi Hamid.

Muslims need to be able to freely and openly debate the headscarf, or hijab. It’s certainly true, as Asra Nomani argues, that the idealization of hijabcan put women who choose not to wear it in a challenging position. So, yes, speaking as a Muslim-American, if I had a daughter, I’d want her to be able to not cover her hair and not have to worry about being judged by her peers as somehow less religious or “chaste.” But this doesn’t change the fact that just as women should be free and empowered to choose not to wear hijab, they must also be free and empowered to wear it, if that’s what they want.

This is why it’s hard for me to understand why we need to put quotes around the word “choice.” Here in the United States, every single hijabi woman I know has chosen to wear it voluntarily, sometimes to the dismay, or even outright opposition, of friends and family. While there are countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran where hijab is mandated, in countries like, say, Turkey or Morocco, there’s no evidence I’ve seen that suggests that a large number of women are forced against their will to wear the headscarf by a parent or spouse. So it really depends on which countries we’re talking about. (Of course, in those cases where women are forced by their families, communities and civil society organizations, whether in Western or Muslim-majority countries, should speak out unequivocally and take action).

Follow the essay here …