Millions of Muslim women and girls around the world wear the hijab — that is, the traditional Islamic head covering that covers part of the face and forehead — but a U.S. military publication asserts that wearing one is akin to “passive terrorism.”
As the Independent reports, a 2011 research paper by the Air Force Research Laboratory, entitled “Countering Violent Extremism: Scientific Methods & Strategies,” has become the subject of media attention this week after it was published on the open source research website Public Intelligence.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid, who describes himself as a former Islamic extremist and is now a fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, wrote the chapter that claims a relationship between wearing the hijab and so-called “passive terrorism.”
“[Extremism occurs when] increasing numbers of women begin to wear the hijab, which is both a symptom of Salafi proliferation and a catalyst for Islamism. In turn, the proliferation of militant Salafism and the hijab contribute to the idea of passive terrorism, which occurs when moderate segments of the population decline to speak against or actively resist terrorism.”
Hamid then goes on to make other claims about the development of radicalization, specifically that “young Muslims are motivated to join radical groups because of sexual deprivation.”
Needless to say, some Muslim women have taken exception to the supposed association between the hijab and terrorism, passive or otherwise.
— NNAAC (@NNAAC) February 24, 2016
Deciding which colour’s the most ‘dangerous’ and alarming to wear tomorrow #PassiveTerrorism pic.twitter.com/xrz6z1zMrr
— Heena Khaled (@HeenaKhaled) February 24, 2016
In fact, depending on the context and depending on whom you ask, the hijab can either be an instrument of religious and cultural coercion intended to oppress Muslim women or a joyful expression of a woman’s religion, no different than a Catholic woman wearing a crucifix.
There is certainly no doubt that some Muslim women and girls are forced to wear the hijab, either by their families or by their cultures generally. And in some cases, a Muslim woman or girl who fails to wear it can expect retribution. For example, according to this Inquisitr report, a Muslim man in Columbia, Missouri, was arrested for assaulting a teenage relative who didn’t wear a hijab.
Because hijabs can be used as a tool of oppression, some Western governments – most notably, France – have banned it.
Even in the United States, where religious freedom is enshrined in the Constitution, wearing the hijab has been a source of problems for some Muslim women. In some states, for example, Muslim women complained that they’ve been unable to obtain a driver’s license because they’ve refused to remove their hijabs, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Not all Muslim women wear the hijab because they’re forced to. Rather, many Muslim women choose to wear the hijab, as a joyful expression of their religious faith.
Writing in the New York Times in 2012, Muslim woman Ayesha Nursat wrote that wearing the hijab is not, for her, an admission of being oppressed, but rather, a liberating expression of her femininity.
“I am abundantly aware of the rising concerns and controversies over how a few yards of cloth covering a woman’s head is written off as a global threat to women’s education, public security, rights and even religion. I am also conscious of the media’s preferred mode of portraying all hijabi women as downtrodden and dominated by misogynist mullahs or male relatives who enforce them into sweltering pieces of oppressive clothing. But I believe my hijab liberates me… In a society that embraces uncovering, how can it be oppressive if I decided to cover up? I see hijab as the freedom to regard my body as my own concern and as a way to secure personal liberty in a world that objectifies women.”
Do you believe that a Muslim woman wearing a hijab is carrying out an act of “passive terrorism”? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Shutterstock/Amir Ridhwan]