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The Hijab: a Shield from verbal harassment or a woman's commitment to God?

Published: 
Sunday, March 22, 2015

By Naballah Chi
I DON'T BELIEVE that women must cover themselves up from head to toe in order to be free from harassment and cat-calling; in actuality it is a man’s responsibility not to sexually harass a woman. It is the choice of a woman to wear what she deems comfortable and walk down the streets free from the fear of sexual abuse. 

People who think or say women should cover up to prevent catcalling and harassment are placing undue restraints on a woman’s choice of clothing, but it also places the hijab in a very male-centric light, as if the whole purpose of donning the hijab is for men, when it’s supposed to be a personal commitment to God’s love of modesty, the fulfilment of a commandment to his servants.

It is also a man’s responsibility to adopt modest practices and lower his gaze; the clothing of a woman is entirely her choice and should not be the reason she suffers from such vulgar treatment. Hijab is not worn for men; to keep their illicit desires in check; that is their own responsibility. Islam is a religion of moderation and of balance between extremes. Therefore, it does not expect women alone to uphold society’s morality and uprightness.

Rather, Islam asks men and women mutually to strive to treat one another with the utmost respect and dignity. Being a hijabi myself, I do understand the importance of modesty, yet I think what needs to be highlighted is the sickening mentality that some men have. Women, from all races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds, have the right to be respected, regardless of what they choose to wear or the status they hold in society. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has the right to treat women this way – it has degraded the very fabric of a human’s existence and the value they hold. It is ALWAYS the aggressor’s fault for sexually harassing someone (male or female). No one in their right mind dresses up in the morning hoping to be harassed or degraded while going about their day like anyone else. No one should have to worry about being sexually abused, especially in this day and age, no matter their gender, sexual appeal, or choice of clothing. 

Hijab is not a bullet-proof protection for a woman. It’s not something that will guard her from street harassment; thus leaving those who choose not to wear the hijab vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination. Where do we draw the line between self-control and freedom? 

Honestly, anywhere you go, it doesn’t matter what you wear. There are psychopaths everywhere, and if a man has no empathy, no heart, no fear of God, and an evil mind, he’s going to do what he wants. In the end, men should ideally support the choice of women and not force them to adopt any body covering. Especially not by insinuating that, if they don’t wear a hijab or cover up, they might get raped or harassed.

Rather, the main goal should be to educate all to treat women with respect and dignity —  the same way you would want your mothers, sisters, and daughters to be treated — with utmost kindness and honour.

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