Hide No More: Dutch Ad Campaign Targets Discrimination Against Hijabis

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?

Image via Flickr.

Image via Flickr.

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!

  • http://answeringlife.blogspot.com Candice

    How nice. We should have some of those in Quebec because hijabis are not seen in a very positive way. Niqabis are definitely not seen well… We are too influenced by France.

  • http://www.quranclub.net Ikram Hadi

    It is nice but people can take it both ways.

  • http://kathmanducats.wordpress.com/ KC Casey

    Thank you for a concise and informative post–and I should say, timely! I just returned yesterday from a trip to the Netherlands, where I’d taken a photo of the exact same poster in order to try to translate the Dutch and figure out what it meant. When I searched online, your post was in the top five results.

    I’m not Muslim myself, but I teach a group of Muslim women, and I am committed to anti-discrimination. I plan to show my students the photo of the poster and share with them your insightful commentary about it for them to discuss in turn. Thank you!

  • http://jamericanmuslimah.wordpress.com Jamerican Muslimah

    I like the message. I wish we could post these ads in the United States as part of an eliminating racism drive. I’m thinking the picture above along with the title “Would you leave part of yourself at home? For many Muslim women leaving aside their headscarf is equivalent to discarding a part of themselves. Eliminate racism” (or something along those lines).


    I’m glad they have the message written underneath to show what this image really means. Otherwise if it was just the image alone I think people wouldn’t know it was an anti racist ad and get titillated by the sight of what’s “underneath” the veil ala the Bluetooth Burka.

  • Person

    It’s a really great ad and really drives the point home. People are forced to face the fact that discrimination against women in hijab that is so bad some discard or feel the need too, is essentially trying to rip away part of someone’s identity. It humanizes weares of hijab as more than “damsels in distress.”

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  • Fatima


    I am not at all sure of the translation, but I believe it is something to the effect of asking whether or not it is necessary to show their “at home” face outside?

  • http://religionresearch.org/martijn martijn

    The translation is:
    “Do you have to leave yourself at home, when you go out?”

  • Fatima

    Martijn, Then how can this be seen as supportive of Muslim women? Or against Bias? What cultural meaning am I missing here?

  • martijn

    Note that it is a questions that is asked. The campaign in fact says, that if you have to hide your real self (in this case a Muslim woman with headscarf) when you leave the house (that is, if you are discriminated against, if people do not accept who you are – (Muslim) woman, gay, handicapped, old -), tell us and we will take the appropriate action against it.

    It is a little more subtle then most campaigns, hence the criticism about the ambiguity, but the positive thing is that it makes people think, explain and discuss (sort of what we do here now).

  • Fatima


  • http://www.sajamuzaini.blogspot.com saja

    I loved their campaign and what they are trying to say..
    I just have a small observe.. the image they used to reveal the truth behind the white mohajabah woman was a black woman! im not racist at all.. I know that they are fighting all the discrimination for hijab and black people..but when they chose to hide a white woman they shoes a whit man..and when the hid the gay male they chose a white female as well..
    its just a small observation but honestly I think they thought about it..after all its their job!
    other than that I thnk we need such conceptual campaign everywhere..

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