Flat White

Headscarf emancipation

16 July 2017

7:56 AM

16 July 2017

7:56 AM

In a world in which female empowerment is increasingly defined by SlutWalks, headscarves are a display of true liberation.

I realise that nowadays, headscarves have a bit of PR problem. Their mere mention conjures dystopian visions of deepest, darkest Arabia, in which Quran-wielding husbands physically inflict a jet-black symbol of subservience upon their reluctant wives and daughters.

This just isn’t the reality of the situation, especially here in Australia. The vast majority of the time, the garment is a colourful, fashionable and welcome expression of modesty, femininity and personal independence, freely chosen by women of Islam, Christianity and of no faith at all.

If you give it some thought, you’ll realise that headscarves do the opposite of enslave, they free women from societal expectations, increasingly defined in the ‘West’, by talentless, soft-pornstar celebrities. Why is a woman who chooses to don a headscarf, any more a slave to her religion or her husband than a woman in a choker and hundreds of dollars of makeup, a slave to shallow and temporary popular culture?

What’s more, in a culture in which female value is still intrinsically linked to subjective definitions of ‘beauty’, defined by clarity of skin, curvature of body and Kim Kardashian’s bum, surely a rejection of this hegemony shows only thoughtful independence.

Nonetheless, I fully acknowledge that today, most women who chose to wear a headscarf do so in adherence to Islamic cultural-religious tradition. Subsequently, by this point, I can feel the blood of the little band of angry, secular, ‘alt-right’ readers, who seem convinced of my nature as an Islamist apologist, boiling.

While of course, I don’t care, it might be worth making three quick distinctions. Firstly, when I write about the headscarf, I write not about the niqab or burka, the latter of which is unpleasant and exclusionary. Secondly, this article is not a literary Trojan horse, designed to validate or affirm any supposed religious significance found in a garment of clothing – there is none. Thirdly, I have and continue to argue that mass Islamic migration into non-Islamic countries is a mistake.

Nevertheless, while we’re on the topic, it’s worth addressing the push we see from some quarters to demonise any outward and visible expressions of religious observance.

I’d like to think that most Spectator readers would agree with me, when I argue that cultural and religious identity is fundamental to human flourishing and that to oppress it is among the cruellest and most destructive things a society can do. Growing up in the United Kingdom, I witnessed the relentless crusade by elite politicians, celebrities and journalists to dilute, redefine and ‘modernise’ the identity of conservatives, localists and Christians.

I will never take part in a similar campaign against Islam or Muslims.

Those who demand that the state regulate the headwear of women for a greater, secular societal good are misguided. Religious liberty and freedom from state coercion are cornerstones of any nation worth its name.

Indeed, rather than condemn women who chose to cover their hair, we should cherish them and encourage more non-Muslim women to embrace headscarves as fashionable, attractive and powerful symbols of tradition, patriarchy and femininity. Granted, it’s not a traditional feature of Aussie culture, but in a Western World defined by its uniform dedication to meaningless values such as ‘equality’ and ‘tolerance’, it would be a welcome addition.

Covering one’s hair is a small but radical rebellion against modern enslavements and societally set value. As conservatives, it’s a rebellion we should applaud.

Illustration: MOGA.

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