This article is a must read.
Fabulady Humera Jabir takes a personal, passionate and rational look at Quebec’s Charter of Values:
My mother is the reason I began to wear the hijab. She is the strongest woman I know; intelligent, she stressed the importance of education, and most of all, faith in God. She prepped me for school speeches never accepting shyness as an excuse, insisting that her daughters speak for themselves and stand on their own. My mother wears the hijab as a fundamental part of her faith; for her it is way to carry out the Quran’s requirement of modesty and to live in accordance with the prophetic example…
I politicized the hijab and that is why ten years after I first began wearing it, I decided to stop. The hijab is not my tool; it is not a banner to be flown in the face of Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia. I used the hijab as an object; a loudspeaker to say here I am, a strong Muslim woman in your midst. But though I changed people’s minds, I began to feel hollow wearing it. I was living only for other people’s eyes while totally neglecting the hijab as an element of my faith…
And yet, as Quebecers now grapple with the Charter of Values, the hijab is front and center, a tool used by the Parti Québécois to shore up political support… Louise Beaudoin and other outspoken “feminist” supporters of the Charter argue that it poses no barrier to Muslim women’s employment; they will simply take the hijab off on their way to work and carry on. But to turn the hijab into an object comparable to a hat or scarf that can be left at the door in the morning with no impact on its wearer denies the fundamental, non-political, reality of what the hijab is: an act of worship that has great meaning in people’s lives.
Humera’s story about her mother and the idea that the hijab is used as a political tool resonates with me — not only because this is a fabulous piece, but because I’ve been researching, hijab-deep in stereotypes surrounding Muslim women and mothers for the past couple of weeks.
On Friday I’ll be giving a talk for the Motherhood Initiative about the demonization of Muslim mothers in the media — which includes politicizing the hijab as a tool to identify Muslim women as the “creators of terror.” Because nothing says “bad mothering” more than insinuating that the cause of Islamic terrorism is literally “home grown” within a mother’s womb.
I’ll be sharing this talk with you all, and my other recent talk on Mothering during an era of Islamophobia in a new blog series that will also look at how Muslim women are addressing these stereotypes online. How, like Humera’s article, Muslim women are challenging negative portrayals, storytelling with authentic voices and creating spaces to encourage positive narratives about hijab, about motherhood, and about the lived experience of Muslim women that go lightyears beyond media stereotypes.