Instead of targeting groups that legitimately threaten national security, many countries have taken to targeting another group—Muslim women.
Policies on hijabs—like the recent burkini ban implemented in many French municipalities—label those who wear them as representative of extremist groups.
The burkini ban, which prohibits wearing a bathing suit style popular among Muslim women that covers most of the body, is not a secular ban but an Islamophobic ban. While France uses its secularity as justification, a personal decision to practice religion does not affect others.
The burkini ban is being removed in most municipalities in France after a national court ruled against it, according to a Sept. 1 article from BBC News. Although removing the ban was an appropriate step, the ideology behind it is still influential in Europe and other parts of the world.
A recent poll from the data collection site YouGov.co.uk asked, “To what extent would you support or oppose a law that bans people from wearing the burka in the U.K.?” Fifty seven percent of the 1,668 Great Britain residents polled said they would support it to some extent.
The only positive outcome of the poll was the results from younger people. The younger the person, the more likely it was they would not support a burka ban in the U.K., which could mean younger generations are moving toward more accepting and inclusive beliefs.
Oppression is a reality for many Muslim women, especially in Middle Eastern countries, but many women wear the hijab, niqab, burka or other head covering proudly.
Women should be able to wear a hijab or other head covering or not without fear of legal consequences or disrespect.
Muslim women are mothers, daughters, sisters, entrepreneurs, activists, athletes and teachers. They live independent lives and should be able to participate in activities like sports or the beach without compromising their modesty.
During the recent Olympic games, Egyptian beach volleyball players Nada Meawad and Doaa Elghobashy sparked controversy by opting for a more modest uniform instead of the bikini that beach volleyball players typically wear.
Elghobashy faced cruel jokes, especially about the juxtaposition between her modest outfit-—which included a hijab—and bikini-clad German players.
People said Elghobashy’s choice to wear a hijab was disgusting and oppressive, but what they failed to remember is until the 2012 Olympics, female beach volleyball players were required to wear bikinis. That is more oppressive than giving someone the option of wearing a hijab.
This year, world-class fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first hijab-wearing woman from the U.S. to compete in the Olympics.
While inclusion of Muslim women in all parts of life is rising, so are the barriers trying to keep these capable, independent women out.
The need for modesty to be seen as a valid choice is not always respected by American feminists, particularly “sex-positive” feminists who argue they should be able to wear revealing attire without judgment or harassment. While this movement of feminists mean have valid concerns, ignoring and invalidating those whose struggles do not fit with theirs is as problematic as misogynistic oppression. It is not inclusive of the millions of ways women live their lives.
The point of reclaiming the word “slut” or reclaiming the hijab are, at their core, the same. They are both about taking an identity that was previously oppressing women and making it empowering.