Women in Iran taking off the hijab

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Click to visit “My Stealthy Freedom”

Women across Iran are posting photos of themselves without the hijab to a dedicated Facebook page called “My Stealthy Freedom”…The Facebook page was set up just over a week ago, and already has 130,000 “likes”. Almost all are from people in Iran, both men and women.

So far the page has around 150 photos. They show women on the beach, on the street, in the countryside, alone, with friends or their partners – but crucially – all without the headscarf. Most include a few words, for example: “I loathe the hijab. I too like the feel of the sun and the wind on my hair. Is this a big sin?”

Ever since the Islamic Revolution 35 years ago, it has been illegal for a woman to leave the house without wearing a headscarf. The punishment ranges from a fine to imprisonment. “My hair was like a hostage to the government,” says Masih Alinejad, an Iranian political journalist who lives in the UK and who set up the Facebook page. “The government still has a lot of hostages,” she adds.

Alinejad got the idea after she posted some photos of herself without the hijab to her own Facebook page. The images were liked thousands of times. So many women began to send her their own pictures that she decided to set up a dedicated page. Though she’s well-known for being critical of the government in Iran, she insists the page is not political. “These are not women activists, but just ordinary women talking from their hearts…”

The hijab is a controversial issue in Iran. A recent billboard campaign reminding women to cover themselves up, was mocked on social media for comparing women to chocolates in a wrapper. But many support the wearing of the hijab, arguing it’s an important part of Islamic law – there was a demonstration in Tehran last week, with protesters calling for a more strict implementation of the rules.

Letting religion order your clothing, your nutrition – or lack thereof – is absurd. I can’t say much more than that because this is the kind of question I sorted out well before I left my teens. That was a very long time ago.

So, folks who get hung up into deep discussions about the flavors that differentiate religion really aren’t getting a whole boatload of commentary from me. Difficult enough restraining my native crankiness. 🙂

Thanks #BBCtrending

Iran’s girl footballers will wear caps – not headscarves

The Iranian girls’ football team is to be allowed to play in the Youth Olympics after a deal was reached to allow them to cover their hair…

“This decision was taken after both the Iran Football Federation as well as the Iran National Olympic Committee confirmed in writing that they will accept a solution whereby the players will not wear their Islamic hijab during the matches of the competition,” Fifa said in a statement.

“Instead, the players can wear a cap that covers their heads to the hairline, but does not extend below the ears to cover the neck.”

Fifa had initially banned the team from competing, as they had refused to play without headscarves, which are part of the Islamic dress code enforced by the Iranian authorities.

The Iran girls team is due to compete in a six-nation tournament at the first ever Youth Olympics, scheduled for 12-25 August in Singapore.

Around 3,600 athletes aged 14-18 will compete in 26 sports at the Games.

FIFA has a deserved reputation for outdated, incompetent, politically-motivated decisions. Their rulemaking is roughly akin to the South Carolina state legislature. Reason and science never enter into the equation.

No doubt serious and extended negotiations were involved – mostly to assuage the egos of ideological trollops like Seth Blatter of FIFA and Ahmadinejad, Iran’s virtual king. Both sides want Iran to participate – dollars on one side, prestige on the other.

The sort of political decision that is never distracted by reason.

Iranian men don hijabs to protest student leader’s arrest

Iranian opposition supporters have launched an online campaign to free a student activist accused of dressing as a woman to try to avoid arrest.

Hundreds of men have posted photos of themselves wearing Islamic headscarves as part of the “Be a man” campaign to show solidarity with Majid Tavakoli. He was arrested during protests in Tehran on Monday and state media showed images of him in headscarf and robes.

The opposition say the pictures were staged in a bid to discredit him. They say he was not wearing the headscarf and robes when he was arrested.

Iranian state media say Mr Tavakoli was arrested as he sought to leave Tehran’s Amir Kabir university “disguised as a woman” after Student Day protests.

One US-based website for Iranian expatriates, iranian.com, has posted scores of photos submitted by readers.

Iranian men are showing their solidarity with Tavakoli by wearing a hijab and posting their photo on the web,” reads its appeal to send in photos.

Some of the website’s readers argue that the campaign is also a gesture of solidarity with Iranian women, who are obliged by the authorities to wear the hijab in public.

Har! There must be some useful parallels for folks in the GOUSA.

We could wear hockey skates and pretend to be Canadians during debates on healthcare reform.

Veiled threats in France over Islamic dress


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

This week, France plunged into another bitterly divisive national debate on Muslim women’s clothing, reopening questions on how the country with western Europe’s biggest Muslim community integrates Islam into its secular republic. A parliamentary inquiry is to examine how many women in France wear full Islamic veils or niqab before a decision is made over possibly banning such garments in the street. More than 50 MPs from across the political spectrum have called for restrictions on full veils, called “degrading”, “submissive” and “coffins” by politicians. Yet the actual numbers of niqab wearers in France appears to be so small that TV news crews have struggled to find individuals to film. Muslim groups estimate that there are perhaps only a few hundred women fully covering themselves out of a Muslim population of over 5 million – often young French women, many of them converts.

That such a marginal issue can suddenly take centre stage in a country otherwise struggling with major issues of mass unemployment and protest over public sector reform shows how powerful the symbol of the headscarf and veil remains in France.

If men decided to join a religion that required playing dress-up like the pope, walking around with velvet slippers and swinging a incense brazier from the radio antenna of their mule – I think you’d get the same response from the officials of a nation that works more at being secular than are the critics from other purportedly secular nations. Hypocrites all.

The current initiative against full Islamic veils began in Venissieux, a leftwing area on the industrial outskirts of Lyon. Its communist mayor, AndrĂ© Gerin, led proposals for a clampdown, saying he saw increasing numbers of full veils in his constituency…

Gerin said women in niqab posed “concrete problems” in daily life. “We had an issue in a school where a headteacher at the end of the school day didn’t want to hand back two children to a phantom,” he said. Gerin has refused to conduct the town-hall wedding of a woman wearing niqab. Another woman wearing a full veil was refused social housing by a landlord in the area. The mayor said that when women haven’t removed their face covering, it has resulted in conflict with public officials who often felt insulted or under attack. But he denied stigmatising the wider Muslim population…

Two previous calls for a law restricting full veils have been left to gather dust. This time, the debate is gathering force.

In some nations, Jedi is becoming a significant minor religion – for whatever reason. Do I get to testify before a court of law wearing my Darth Vader helmet?

Multiple shades, multiple significance, of the hijab

When a US-based television network introduced Ro’ya Zanaty, a veiled Egyptian woman, as part of its “21 and the World is Yours” programme, it portrayed her as a “combination of contradictions”.
A Western audience may find it an interesting – if not novel – story that a veiled Muslim woman listens to pop music and is willing to approach a man and ask him out.

But for many in Egypt and the Middle East, a veiled woman mixing eastern and western traditions is nothing new.

In the past two decades, young veiled women have been increasingly active in society – they can be seen in universities, cafes, sports clubs, and mixed social gatherings, hosting talk shows and commenting on everything from contemporary politics to sex education and the latest fashion sense.

And though they appear to share a common adherence to the hijab, they have been expressing themselves in different ways even to the point where the veil itself has now become a symbol of distinct religious and social meanings.

Mona Abaza, a sociology professor at the American University in Cairo, believes the hijab has transformed itself from a symbol of piety into a cultural mechanism, a political statement, and finally, a fashion trend.

Interesting read. Some, confirming the frequent experience of scholars facing a cultural phenomenon which religious folk think is eternal – a pillar of society for only a few decades.

I’ve noted these changes in a couple of ways, recently, here and here.

Veiled athletes challenge stereotypes in Beijing

The women in Roqaya Al Ghasara’s home town in Bahrain are so proud of their pioneering Olympic sprinter that some of them got together to design and sew a set of tailor-made aerodynamic veils for her to run in.

Egyptian fencer Shaimaa El Gammal, a third-timer at the Olympics, will don Islamic headgear in Beijing for the first time. She says it is a sign she is come of age and she feels more empowered than ever.

This year’s Games will see a sizable sprinkling of veiled athletes who are determined to avoid offending devout Muslims back home while showing skimpily dressed rivals there is nothing constricting about wearing “hijab”.

Two of them, Bahrain’s Al Ghasara and veiled Iranian rower Homa Hosseini, won the honor of being flag bearers for their countries at the opening ceremony’s parade of athletes.

A step forward for the individual athletes, their nations and culture.

The hijab goes high-fashion

Autumn trends are already appearing on the pages of glossy magazines, but for some fashionistas an important question remains unanswered. What will be autumn’s key hijab look?

Muslim women anxious to keep their style cutting-edge are turning to an ever-expanding number of blogs, Facebook groups and YouTube videos to discover the hottest way to tie their headscarves.

Jana Kossaibati, whose blog, Hijab Style, claims to be the UK’s first style guide for Muslim women, says women are getting more experimental. “Muslim girls are very conscious of the way they dress. When you wear a headscarf you stand out as a Muslim, so what kind of message are you also sending out if you look drab or messy?” Kossaibati started her site because there wasn’t another like it in the UK, “but since it began 10 months ago a lot of others have appeared,” she says.

Must admit, some of these styles are attractive to these old Anglo eyes.