A recent anti-discrimination campaign in the Netherlands is using a poster of a hijabi, whose face is hidden behind the photo of a non-hijabi, as part of an advertising campaign to fight discrimination. The poster appears at bus stops, and says “Do you have to let yourself at home when going out?” At first, I was confused by what the poster meant. Was it saying that Muslim women who cover were hiding themselves or that Dutch society was making hijabis leave a part of their selves at home by pressuring them not to cover?
After clicking on the link in the Flickr page where I saw the image of the poster, I concluded it was the latter. Using Google translate to help me understand the website, I discovered that the site was a website dedicated to fighting discrimination of all kinds in the Netherlands. In fact, the URL (“http://discriminatie.nl/”) actually means “discrimination”. The image of the hijabi hiding behind the photo of the non-hijabi that appears on the home page of the site is one of a few images done in a similar vein: a white woman whose face is hidden behind the photo a white man, a black man whose face is hidden behind the photo of a white man, and a gay couple with one of the men’s face hidden behind the photo of a woman.
I love the image of the hidden hijabi for two reasons. The first is that it comes from the Netherlands. The Islamophobia directed towards Muslims by Dutch society, as well as proposed ban on the burqa and niqab in other European countries, have been given extensive coverage in the media in recent years. Seeing an anti-discrimination ad campaign in the Netherlands featuring a Muslim woman is heartening to say the least, because it shows an attempt to truly embrace the diversity that exists in the Netherlands.
The second reason why I love this image is because it completely reverses the looker’s expectation of hijab. Instead of the hijab hiding some aspect of the woman, it is society’s pressure for conformity that is making the woman hide an aspect of herself. The discrimination that woman is receiving, which in turn is discouraging her from wearing hijab, is damaging to her, not her hijab. In fact, the hijab is given a role of liberator in the ad. By not discriminating against the woman for wearing hijab, by letting her wear it, we are liberating her to be who she wants to be in the public sphere. The ad stands out for me because of its simple imagery and symbolism.
The one critique I do have with the ad is that it can be ambiguous, as described in the introductory paragraph of the Flickr post. The ambiguity that can occur looking at the ad for the first time could lead some people to come away with the wrong message such as the idea that hijab is preventing the woman from being herself. This would obviously negate the actual intent of the ad. Still, it is a great ad and positive image of hijabis that is very welcomed.
Muslimah Media Watch thanks Zahed for the tip!