The most hated thing I have ever written by far is “The Hypocrisy of Feminist Outrage.” It is also the most misunderstood. Contrary to what people thought, that piece was not about sexual harassment. It was about how the way we dress (or undress) can negatively impact others. Both Islamic law AND secular law acknowledge this. If you are not familiar with the Islamic discourse on the topic, I give examples in the essay. As for the secular side, I cite dress codes, indecent exposure laws, and scientific studies on the impact of nudity. The point of all this is to show that YES, your clothes matter and it is wrong and deeply destructive for feminists to claim that “women can dress or undress however they want and no one has the right to tell them otherwise.” Yes, people do have that right — in fact Western governments exercise that right to tell women (and men) how to dress when it comes to what they define as “indecent exposure.” So, if Western governments exercise that right, why can’t Islamic law? It’s the same underlying principle, except that what Western society considers “indecent” is not exactly what Islamic law considers as such.
Notice how the above argument has NOTHING to do with sexual harassment or catcalling. I readily acknowledge that catcalling is harmful. But I also acknowledge, in light of the argument above, that improper dress is ALSO harmful on an individual and societal level. For feminists to deny this is hypocritical on multiple levels that I explain in the article.
Also, Muslims should be the last ones to object to any of this. Consider the Quranic verse 33:59 on the issue of women’s dress: “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
One of the central purposes of covering is spelled out very clearly in this verse: to avoid molestation and harassment. The INcorrect way to understand this is to say that women are to blame if they get sexually harassed. The blame for sexual harassment always is on the harasser, not the victim. We all agree on this. HOWEVER, that does not absolve women (or men) from their duty to cover themselves and maintain decency for themselves, their families, and society at large.
Another reason Muslims should be the last ones to object to any of this is the fact that here we see the wisdom of hijab, how it is objectively beneficial, how it is rational and most conducive to justice on the personal and societal level. Contrary to what modern Muslims seem to believe, hijab is not an empty ritual with only symbolic significance. It is secular thought that wants to portray the hijab as a mere cultural fossil with no moral relevance at best, at worst as an impractical tool of oppression by men and nothing else. It is a secular mindset to equate the hijab and the bikini and say that they are both equally expressions of women’s freedom because they both represent a woman’s choice and therefore her empowerment. No, hijab is practically, rationally, and morally superior. Be proud of that instead of repeating stale cliches about “the power of choice.”
Do you not believe that Allah has commanded the hijab for a purpose, a wisdom, and the benefit of humanity? If so, then you should reject the modernist claim that it is a good thing for people to expose their bodies. You should reject the idea that everyone has a right to expose themselves to their own liking. You should believe that there is a practical benefit for hijab in the same way that there is a practical benefit that we readily recognize in avoiding alcohol, gambling, pork, etc. Obviously, if you live in a non-Muslim society, there’s hardly ever a possibility of “imposing” these beliefs on others. But that doesn’t mean you cannot BELIEVE that these injunctions are the most correct, just, and beneficial for all of humanity and that the way things are done all around us is detrimental and the cause of corruption and suffering. Cherishing and nurturing this belief is important if, among other things, we want our children to observe proper hijab in the future. If we don’t believe that hijab has this practical benefit, there is ZERO chance many of the next generation will feel the need to adopt what they will see as empty symbolic gestures or cultural relics of a prior, unenlightened generation. Indeed, this is what we see today, not only among the youth but also the previous 1 or 2 generations. If you look at our condition, Muslim women today are leaving the hijab en masse. Why is that? And this is not just to say that it is Muslim women who are at fault or to blame anyone who does not wear hijab. No, we are all responsible and we are all struggling. But let’s struggle with clear-mindedness.
O Muslims, throw away the empty cliches and open your eyes.