Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Anti-Hijab Protests: Iranian Women Lead the Way, Again

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam 27 September 2022 Scores of Women Are Fed up with the Regime’s Requirement Of Compulsory Veiling Main Points: 1. Mahsa Amini, Who Died From Severe Beating She Received From The Iranian Morality Police, Has Become The Symbol Of Resistance. 2. The Veil Creates A Division Between Pious And Non-Pious Muslim Women, With Piety Being Defined In Narrow Sectarian Way. 3. The Islamic Brotherhood Was Able To Establish The Veil Through Which Muslim Religiosity Should Be Viewed, Albeit By Very Different Means. 4. The Iranian Women Are Saying That There Are Other Ways Of Being Religious; That The Veil Should Not Be A Marker Of Religiosity. ----- An undated picture obtained from social media shows Mahsa Amini. (Reuters) ---- The brave women of Iran are retaking the streets again. Just as they have been doing this for some decades now. This time, again, the demand is against the compulsive wearing of hijab, which is the law in Iran. Mahsa Amini, the Kurdish girl who died from severe beating she received from the morality police, has become the symbol of resistance. Not just for women who are burning their hijabs but also for Hijabi women who are fed with the restrictions that the Iranian regime imposes on women in general. Protests have broken out in almost all parts of Iran and solidarity protests are being held in different parts of the world. In all nearly 41 peaceful protestors have killed by the Iranian regime. And yet the protests show no sign of subsiding. Iran is a youthful country, with nearly 60% of the population below the age of 30. Almost everywhere, the protests have been led by women, particularly those within universities, where women comprise the majority of all student population. Almost everywhere, these protests have been supported by men but more importantly by women from all ages and from all walks of life. The protest is no longer simply about the compulsory hijab; it is now turning into a call for regime change. There was a time in Iran when veiled women were discriminated against. They were not allowed in schools, colleges and couldn’t go to work with their veils. Women were a huge part of the protests which eventually overthrew the Shah. They welcomed the Islamic regime but soon realized that they had chosen an Islamist clerical regime which didn’t see women as individuals in their own right. Women could study and work but not without becoming the bearers of the veil; the marker of sharia which would eventually segregates lives, spaces and minds. Women have their interpretation of this segregation; some support it but others do not. But what is getting increasingly clear through these protests is that even those who do wear veil have come out against its compulsory imposition. In Egypt, the Islamic Brotherhood never tasted real power except briefly when Muhammad Morsi became president. But much before that, through a very effective capturing of educational spaces, the Brotherhood was able to impose the veil on huge numbers of women. Through the mosque movement, etc. it were the women who were voluntary taking to the veil, first as markers of equality but later as a political flag of Islamism. In Iran the process was top down, with the state imposing compulsory hijab, which was strongly supported by the leadership of the Brotherhood. But what was common to both was the symbolism that got attached to the veil. Firstly, it marked out that veiled women from ‘lesser’ Muslim women/society. Secondly, the veil was a symbol of anti-Westernism, the refusal to bow down to the demands of modernization and westernization. The veil became the urge to embrace an Islamic authenticity. While one might have differences with such terminologies, these ideas were and are certainly part of the politics of hijab even today. Women hold up signs depicting the image of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while in the custody of Iranian authorities, during a demonstration denouncing her death outside the UN offices in Arbil on September 24, 2022. (AFP) ------ By far the Egyptian model seems to be more successful. There is no compulsion to wear the hijab and so it can be argued that women are doing it out of their own choice. However, coercion has many forms. Research conducted amongst such women during the 1980s and 1990s clearly tell us how unveiled women were ridiculed and scorned at by members of the Islamic Brotherhood in public. In other words, it was not state imposition but the Brothers had created such a hegemony that not wearing the hijab was not an option for many women. When we talk of veiling as choice, we also need to look at the societal context in which that ‘choice’ is being exercised. The protests in Iran have become anti state precisely because this ideology/illusion of choice is not there. It is ironical that despite being in state power for more than forty years now, it has not been able to convince its own women about the absolute necessity of the veil. On the other hand, the Islamic Brotherhood, without any state power could achieve this hegemony over the past fifty years. It would be premature to judge what will be the outcome of the current Iranian movement. The protestors may or may not win. Or they might be persuaded to go away with some piecemeal reform promises. Despite the fact that 41 protestors have been killed, it is safe to assume that the Iranian regime has not come out with its full force. One reason might be that when the protests broke, the Iranian President Raisi was abroad, at the United Nations, and hence would have faced international press if something went out of hand at home. But now since he is back, we can expect that the regime would not shy away from using even more force. We need not be over-simplistic in our analysis by calling this a fight between secularism and Islamic fundamentalism. The voices of Iranian women, which we have heard so far is more complicated than this simple binary. There are many women, and perhaps a majority of them, who do not want to identify with secularism. They argue that Islam remains the frame through which they see the world but their Islam is one that does not impose itself forcefully. In other words, religious women are part of this struggle but they are opposed to the regime imposing hijab on everyone without their consent. They are opposed to the regime for the brutal manner in which they have handled the protestors. They are not in this fight because they want to establish a secular state, but because they are opposed to a singular expression of Islamic religiosity. They are saying that Muslim women need not have to express their Islam through the veil; that religiosity is something very interiorized, very private to the individual experience. And the veil or its absence is not the yardstick through which one’s Islam should be judged. ---- A regular contributor to NewAgeIslam.com, Arshad Alam is a writer and researcher on Islam and Muslims in South Asia. URL: https://newageislam.com/islam-women-feminism/anti-hijab-protests-iranian-women-/d/128045 New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

No comments:

Post a Comment