Oh, to be a Muslim woman in 2019.
When it comes to the world of online social media hijabis, a new phenomenon is sweeping the digital sphere: Hijab Shaming by the online squad, referred to as the ‘social media mullahs.’
In the current post 9/11 political narrative, the Muslim community is generally experiencing a number of vicissitudes of life, especially Muslim women who choose the hijab, face a plethora of struggles in their daily life. Islamophobia, prejudice and physical violence has led many women to remove their hijabs to ensure safety from discrimination. However, there has been a recent trend of Muslim women relinquishing the hijab, simply because they no longer connect with it.
This has split the Muslim opinion and unsettled the Islamic patriarchy, one that roams the corners of social media to police the styles of hijabs worn by women. These men (and some women) view hair as a sexual feature and deem those who choose to display it as ‘immoral’
With a growing niche market online, these shamers typically look for hijabi bloggers on Instagram and Twitter. They then proceed to harass, verbally abuse, bully and target those they view as breaking from observing the protocols of ‘proper’ head covering etiquettes. They see this as an affront to religion and God and most importantly, interpret this as a woman compromising her ‘modesty’.
Recently, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, the creator and force behind the well renowned blog MuslimGirl.Com, took to her social media and website to express her anger at this odious behavior.
Amani has categorized such behavior as ‘sexual harassment’ and chauvinistic pietism. She stated:
‘A recent wave of highly visible hijabi influencers have been taking off the scarf, provoking shock amongst their followers ……………. ‘Let’s call attacking Muslim women for their hijab what it is: sexual harassment………
The fact that we simply don’t, and often can’t, police Muslim men’s religiosity publicly is what makes hijab policing an inherently gender-based double standard.’ (MuslimGirl.com ‘Hijab Policing is Sexual Harassment. Period.’)
However, this new religious mob mentality has taken a further disturbing turn.
In her article, Amani discussed the recent case of high-profile Instagram influencer Dina Tokio, an incident that illustrated the sinister and threatening nature of hijab shaming.
After years of donning the hijab, Dina no longer felt it necessary to covet head covering 24/7, instead opting to wear it part-time. When she revealed her hijabless new look to her 1.3 million Instagram followers, she received a barrage of abuse, death threats, verbal and sexual harassment.
Some of the vitriolic comments and comminations she received ranged from being called a porn star, to being accused of being mentally sick, labelled a disgrace and in some instances and the most disconcerting, some hoping her family die painfully and slowly.
Many, including myself, are questioning how something as personal as a hijab, which is a decision solely based on the individual freedoms, has become a favourite metaphorical blood-sport for the Islamic social media police? The simple answer is that toxic masculinity and religious cultural constructs have been major contributing factors. These must be addressed and dismantled.
When paricentric forces within the Islamic world create such a dangerous discourse, Muslim women can become public property to disparage, judge and exploit. They become fair game to anyone. It then creates a platform for opportunistic institutions, groups and anti-Muslim organizations to instrumentalise that dialogue for personal gain.
In a world where hijab wearing women are caught in-between the realms of western Islamophobia and patriarchal fanatical misogyny, Muslim women have become the ultimate political pawns in the battlefield amidst a power-struggle.
Whilst one group uses bigotry fueling stereotypes to deem hijab wearing women as oppressed, the other uses religion and intimidation to control the bodies of Muslim women. Both are two sides of the same coin seeking to regulate the decisions of these women.
A sad realization is that, it is 2019 and Muslim women are still denied agency over their own bodies.
By Saira Mirza