Search

Freedom of choice

One cannot claim to be standing up for women’s rights and liberty while at the same time assuming every decision they make must have been influenced by their menfolk, and that too without any evidence. Legendary Bollywood music composer AR Rahman recently came under flak on social media when his daughter Khatija appeared on stage to talk about her father on the 10 year anniversary of the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire. What caused the controversy was Khatija’s choice of attire, as she was wearing a veil. A number of keyboard warriors and internet trolls subsequently went online, lambasting Rahman for allegedly forcing his daughter to wear veil.
Eventually Khatija was forced to go online in defense of her father, clarifying that she was never forced by anyone to wear the veil, while Rahman uploaded a picture of his family online, showing that Khatija is the only woman in his immediate family who wears the traditional Muslim garb. Since then, #freedomtochoose has begun making the rounds online.
Not only was the narrative that exploded on social media following Khatija’s speech highly presumptuous, it also perpetuates a negative stereotype of Muslim families and only serves to belittle Khatija and other Muslim women who choose to dress according to their own choice – both those who wear hijabs or niqabs and those who prefer wearing western attire. Those who would come to the rescue of oppressed Muslim women should keep in mind that they cannot help anyone by operating on the sole assumption that women in Islamic communities do not have any agency and that they all require saving from a “backward” and “barbaric” culture. If anything, this would only equate these allegedly liberal white knights to the very forces in the Muslim world who engage in moral policing to defend the ‘honour” and “piety” of Muslim women and girls.
Furthermore, such narratives only serve regressive, anti-woman agendas within Muslim communities. In short, not only were those attacking Rahman for his daughter’s choice to cover her face perpetuating a negative stereotype, they were also widening existing cultural divides and making things harder for those Muslim women who choose not to wear Hijabs, Niqabs or Abayas.
This is especially true for India, which has a long history of tensions between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. In this context, promoting any narrative that risks politicizing the veil endangers the rights of Muslim women and amounts to irresponsible rabble rousing and the policing of women’s bodies.
Those who would condemn the Niqab wherever they see it would also do well to remember that in October 2018 the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) declared that the ban on Niqabs which was passed in France in 2010 was in violation of human rights, saying “the French law disproportionately harmed the petitioners right to manifest their religious beliefs”. The UNHRC added that “rather than protecting fully veiled women, it could have the opposite effect of confining them to their homes, impeding their access to public services and marginalizing them.”
Going forward, let us hope the online communities exercise restraint when it comes to commenting on a woman’s choice of clothing, Islamic or otherwise.



--!>

Pakistan mull ways and means to lift team’s morale

--!>