Celebrating a Woman’s Right To Wear A Hijab, But Not Her Right To Be Heard

On Tuesday, about 200 women in Lahore, Pakistan rallied for their right to wear a hijab — a scarf that covers a woman’s hair and neck — in public.

They carried signs like “My niqab, my right” and “Hijab empowers women” and “Hijab is our identity.”

Which is great.  I mean, I have my own issues with women feeling obligated to cover themselves, sure.  And there are some logistical issues with security and identification with not being able to see someones face that are still being worked out.  But I am pro-freedom of expression in all its forms. So while I am troubled by the concept, I want to support a woman’s right to dress herself as she sees fit.

So yeah, women rallying for women’s rights.  Go ladies, amirite?

Here’s the problem with World Hijab Day, though.  On a day where women came together to have their voices and opinions heard, you would have expected some powerful speeches about what it means to be a Muslim woman or moving stories of hardships that Muslim women faced from discrimination.

But there were no such moving speeches from women.

Because no women spoke at the rally.

JI Secretary General Liaqat Baloch and JI Lahore chief Amirul Azeem addressed the participants. No woman gave a speech.

Baloch thanked the participants, saying they had joined in purely for their love of Islam. He said Islam gave high status to women. He said no man was allowed to physically abuse a woman or stop her from getting an education. But, he said, social norms for women and men are different, just as their bodies are different. He said it was wrong to say that the West has given women liberty. In fact, Islam gave women freedom. He said that women were exploited commercially as sexual objects in Western countries and this was not civilised behaviour. He said this practice had also ruined the institution of the family.

Baloch condemned the United States for putting Aafia Siddiqi in prison. He praised a female politician in Turkey who had decided to quit her seat rather than give up her hijab.

Azeem said in his speech that the hijab represented a woman’s dignity and was part of Pakistani civilisation. He said anti-Islam elements were always seeking to strike a blow against Islam and they were trying to steal Muslims’ identity from them. He said the West wanted to snatch the hijab from Muslim women, but they must resist.

He criticised advertising agencies and multinational companies for using women in commercials. He said women were appearing “even in commercials for razors”.

It sounds to me like this rally was less about women having the freedom to wear what they want, which could be empowering, and more about how the West sucks and is trying to destroy Islam.

Which is ironic when you consider how some people in the West are accusing Islam of taking over the West… Let that one sink in for just a moment.

Also, bragging about how they’re not allowed to abuse their women-folk isn’t as impressive as they seem to think.

Regardless, I just don’t think it’s a great PR move to stage a rally about how women really want to be wearing their hijabs because it is their right, their privilege, and their pleasure to do so… and then have zero women speak about how they really want to wear their hijabs.

About Jessica Bluemke

Jessica Bluemke grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a BA in Literature. She currently works as a writer and resides on the North side of Chicago.

  • Moira

    Here is his Facebook page…that has a link about the Hijab rally….should you wish to leave a comment.


    And pics:https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.413972491998629.99675.120404161355465&type=1 

    Strange, I went to his official website and to the gallery section…not really seeing any women in the pics.  It is almost as if there are no women in Pakistanhttp://www.liaqatbaloch.com/gallery_view/pics.php?galId=6&folder=2012-07-01-21-57 

  • LesterBallard

    Indoctrination is fun.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Islam gives women freedom? Freedom to…What? Wrap themselves in plastic bags and be treated as subhuman garbage?

  • sailor

    Too right, and when they are dressed up so all you can see is eye slits, how do you really know any women were actually there?

  • sailor

     Those links are hilarious, it is all about men!

  • Sceptic

    There are Muslim women who demand to wear the hijab even when they are not required to in some Muslim dominated countries. There have been cases in such muslim countries that students wearing the hajib are not allowed into examination halls. Societies that so freely take in people from different cultures are now facing the backlash of numerous subgroups each wanting their adopted country to adapt to them rather than the other way round. Too much individual freedom allows minority to hold the majority hostage and can lead to a case of tyranny of the minority.

    The arguement of women being exploited in commercials is just an excuse. Unless in situation of force, women are the ones likely to be the ones exploiting the commercial opportunities that the use of their looks and bodies open up. It is often a matter of supply and demand.

  • cipher

    Ech, Pakistan. Nothing but trouble from day one.

    Gandhi should never have given in.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Funny how they have a protest/demonstration for 
    WOMEN’s  rights (to wear hijabs) and only have MEN speak! Ridiculous. 
    It would almost be like if we in the USA had a congressional panel of mostly Republicans speaking about WOMEN’s contraceptive rights, and only had MEN on the panel….. oh, wait… yup. 

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    I must have missed something, have any Pakistani women been denied anything in their home country because they wore hijab?  That news sure didn’t reach my corner of the internet.

  • Philo Vaihinger

    The law of a secular state generally should be indifferent to religious apparel unless for some non-religious but not anti-religious reasons.

    But another factor is the possibility of violent coercion.

    We don’t worry especially about this regarding, say, Mennonite women since we are not aware there is such a thing as religious sanction for domestic or official violence against women coercing wearing of the costume.

    The case is otherwise with Islam, notorious for Allah-sanctioned violence and coercion in pretty much everything related to religion.

    A secular state can afford to be equally indifferent only to those religions that are not more than equally dangerous or equally given to refusal to submit to ordinary secular law.

    As we all know only too well, Islam is well outside the norm.

  • C Peterson

    While the story says that the women came together to support the Hijab, it sounds to me like they were paraded to the rally by the men who actually organized it. It was an orchestrated political event (orchestrated by men, of course), not a protest or rally at all. So dishonest, on so many levels.

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    I was just trying to look for it, but haven’t been able to find it… but a while back I saw a video about a women’s sport team (soccer?) somewhere in the Muslim world.  There were three women sitting together in the back of a van and one said to another “You better cover up or you’ll get in trouble.” She had a small amount of hair showing on one side.  That’s not choice at that point, that’s covering up for fear of getting in trouble.  What would happen if a group of women wanted to have a parade in the same neighborhood with a banner that said “Not wearing a hijab is my right and pride” and they wore t-shirts (exposed elbows, oh my), pants.  It might be a big step for women’s rights, but it would set women’s safety and security back hundreds of…okay maybe only a couple years.

    These women are not marching for the right to wear the hijab or niqab (which the women in the front of the picture are wearing), this is all about reinforcing/promoting a religious viewpoint.  It would be like American Christians having a national day of prayer, or a pro-life rally.Then again…it was only 200 years ago that in northern Europe it would have been seen as very improper for a women to be in public without her head covered.

  • phantomreader42

     If such women exist, why could the organizers of this event not locate a single one?  Or were they just so terrified at the thought of a woman speaking that they couldn’t bring themselves to allow a woman to speak even about her demand to wear the hijab at an event whose sole purpose was supposedly to make the point that women want to wear the hijab?

    But, of course, everyone knows that you are physically incapable of discussing anything honestly, so I don’t expect you to even try to answer those questions. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/billpg Bill P. Godfrey

    I’m sure there will be another rally supporting the right to NOT wear a hijab real soon.

  • dantresomi

    but wait, this protest didn’t happen in France it happened in Pakistan! there are no laws that prohibit women from covering there! EPIC FAIL

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

    Yep, and the banner is in English not Urdu. This was staged for the west’s benefit.

  • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

    Uh huh. Scary, innit?

  • John P. Sullivan

    The hijab is the outward sign of submission to Islam and by extension a patriarchal order in which women don’t give speeches.

  • Patterrssonn

    “Too much individual freedom allows minority to hold the majority hostage”. WTF is this supposed to mean? Do you have an actual example of this, or anything at all to back up your rambling incoherent mess of a post.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty


  • Pluto Animus

    Message from Muslims to women:

  • amycas

     This is the same person who argued against me that minority rights should be held to a vote by the majority. Otherwise, those minorities might gain equal rights and institute what sceptic calls the “tyranny of the minority.” The only way a minority is able to be tyrannical is by being in control of all the money. Of course, if you look at the top one percent who hold a majority the wealth in this country, they’re mostly white men.

  • EivindKjorstad

     No, that comment makes sense. There’s always been a balance between the rights of the individual, and the interests of society, going to extremes in either direction has bad consequences.

    Individual rights are important, for example property-rights should generally be respected, but not without exception. We *do* have laws allowing expropriation of privately owned property, and though we might quibble about exactly what circumstances should allow it, most people agree it should be allowed in *some* circumstances.

    Similarly, having taxation at all is an example of reducing an individual right, for the benefit of society as a whole. Again, we can quibble over how much of that we should have and under which circumstances, but only a few on the fringes are of the principal opinion that ALL taxation is inherently evil.