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Hijab reveals how educated women in the USA fan flames of Islamism

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Prasad Binoy
Prasad Binoy
Binoy Shanker Prasad holds a PhD from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Originally from Darbhanga, Bihar (India), Binoy lives with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). He is a former UGC teacher fellow at JNU in India and a Fulbright Scholar in the USA. Author of scholarly works including a book, Violence Against Minorities, Gandhi in the Age of Globalization (a monograph) and a collection of poems, Dr Prasad has taught International Politics and Political Sociology at Ryerson University, Centennial College and McMaster University. He has guest-lectured at such institutions as the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), George Mason Univ., Univ of Madison-Wisconsin, and Redeemer Univ. Socially active, Binoy has also been a two-term president of Hamilton based India-Canada Society (2006-08 and 2018-20).

The controversy related to the hijab (the head covering for practicing Muslim women) has gripped both the Islamic and non-Islamic world. In India, the highest court is yet to adjudicate whether a school can stop Muslim girls from wearing hijab in the classroom where dress code is mandatory. There are strict laws against the hijab in a handful of countries. On the contrary, in many countries of the West, the hijab at the workplace or educational institutions is allowed as an “accommodation” of diversity, tolerance and coexistence. 

Recently, arson and protest swept across Iran since a young Muslim girl, Mahsa Amini, was brutally tortured and killed (16 Sept 2022) by the Islamic ‘morality’ enforcing police. Her crime was not properly wearing the hijab. The young Iranian girls expressed their decades-long anger and defiance by ripping off their head scarves and burning them in street bonfires. In social media reports, women cut off their hair in front of roaring demonstrators and danced bare-headed before the riot police.

Anguished at the weak-kneed stand of the modern secular governments against the hijab, a misogynistic symbol of male dominance over women, I wrote the following comment in the New York Times:

“On the question of hijab (the head scarf), I have been intrigued by the vacillating attitude of most of the govts in the West. It is well known now that the women who wear hijab in public are either influenced by their faith, cultural tradition or they are forced by their conservative patriarchal family members. They have said so in surveys. 

In either case, they need to reform themselves in view of the scientific temper of the modern age or gender equality. 

Many experts, based on studies in schools or at the work places, have pointed out that the hijab symbolically creates a social division among the Muslim women themselves: the one who wears a hijab might consider herself a better Muslim than others! 

The state of Quebec in Canada and France have laws against hijab in public places and the Islamists are working hard in both the countries to have those laws repealed.

The politicians and political parties prefer to be politically correct and by doing so, they pander to the conservatives and handicap the progressives.

We know Kemal Attaturk had banned hijab in Turkey; Reza Pahlavi had outlawed hijab in Iran. In Egypt, Abdel Nasser, refused to impose a hijab on women. On being approached by one of the country’s leading Islamist clergies to do so, Nasser is reported to have chided him: “If you are unable to make one girl – who is your daughter (she was in the College of Medicine) – wear a tarha (Egyptian name for the hijab), you want me to put a tarha on 10 million women?”

The hijab drives a wedge in America

Whereas the progressive forces in the Islamic countries like Iran are agitating for the removal of hijab, Islamist women in Europe and North America are working hard to retain this orthodox discriminatory 7th century symbol. They are quick to provoke any minor event related to the hijab or the Muslims into a faith-related divisive controversy. In India, this is called “communalizing” the issue!

Take an incident in the city of Maplewood, NJ (USA). In October 2021, a seconds-long interaction between Ms Tamar Herman, a White-Jewish Elementary teacher, with 30 years of experience, and her 7-year-old Black-Muslim girl student in a classroom unleashed a national firestorm involving the school district administration, police, judiciary and the Islamists. 

According to Ms Herman, she gently brushed back the front portion of the girl’s hooded sweatshirt because it was covering her eyes. The girl had put on a mask too. Ms Herman had expected that the girl was wearing her usual hijab underneath. But the moment she realized the student didn’t have the hijab, she let her keep the hood on and continued with the class. 

Upon returning home, the girl told her mother that Ms Herman had tried to pull off her hijab in the class. The girl’s hijab-wearing mother, Cassandra Wyatt, instead of talking to the teacher or the school administration, took to the facebook and related the story that was picked up, among others, by Ms Ibtihaj Muhammad who lived in Maplewood too. In 2016, Ibtihaj had earned the reputation of being the first Muslim woman Olympian (a fencer) in hijab. She had represented the United States and earned a bronze medal. 

The day after the school incident, in an Instagram post, Ibtihaj was reported to have written that a teacher had “forcibly removed” a student’s hijab. She added, “Imagine being a child and stripped of your clothing in front of your classmates,” and encouraged people to “denounce discrimination” by calling  or emailing the school district.

Magnifying the incident multi-fold, the New Jersey branch of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) claiming to be America’s “largest Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group” promoting justice and protecting civil liberties jumped on the incident.

On 8 Oct 2021, the CAIR-NJ launched a tweeter attack and called for “the immediate firing of the Maplewood teacher who pulled off the headscarf of a young Muslim student.” Anything less was an “insult to the students and parents of Maplewood, NJ.”

Before that, without investigating the case, the CAIR had accused that the “forcefully stripping off the religious headscarf of a Muslim girl” was not only “exceptionally disrespectful behavior, but also a humiliating and traumatic experience.”

Perhaps, that wasn’t enough, the Islamic “advocacy” group kept on trying to split the welcoming, and liberal community of New Jersey along the “faith” lines. It said, “Muslim students already deal with bullying from peers, it’s unthinkable that a teacher would add to their distress. Islamophobia in our public schools must be addressed in NJ. Classrooms are a place for students to feel safe and welcome, not fear practicing their faith.”

Ms Herman maintained through her attorney that this controversy was the result of people publicizing “rumors without any knowledge of or regard for the truth”. Ms Herman, having devoted 30 years of her heart and soul “to children of all backgrounds”, had to seek “police protection” due to the threats she received. She was unlikely to be hired by any other school district as she was sent on administrative leave after the incident.

One year later, in 2022, the matter landed in the US judicial courts. The family of the girl sued the school district and the teacher. Ms Herman filed a defamation suit of her own in New Jersey’s Superior Court accusing the Olympian, Ibtijah Muhammad and the director of the CAIR-NJ of causing “irreparable harm.” In her lawsuit, she claimed that Ms. Muhammad, the fencer, and CAIR-NJ were “motivated by a combination of greed and a fierce desire to burnish their brands as fighters against Islamophobia..”

In the meantime, Cassandra Wyatt told a media outlet that her daughter was no longer interested in wearing the Islamic garb and Ibtijah Muhammad took off her Instagram postings. However, the CAIR-NJ asserted that it would “continue to strongly stand by the student who had the clear constitutional right to cover her hair for religious reasons without physical interference or humiliation.” The organization had earlier stated that “racist” teachers like Ms Herman couldn’t be trusted “around our” children and demanded her immediate termination.

What does this story tell us?

It should be apparent to everyone that in the USA, as in other countries, there are educated Muslim women like Cassandra Wyatt or Ibtijah Muhammad who are soaked in Islamism and work hard to propagate the Sharia principles all around the world. They are aided by organizations like CAIR that masquerade as “civil liberties and advocacy group” but promote Islamist agenda. Having lived and operated in America, they have learnt the art of distorting and misrepresenting incidents so that they could extract heavy sums as “settlement” or “compensation” from the system. Many Islamophobia allegations leveled by them have turned out to be hoaxes.

There have been other more sophisticated efforts to legitimize the hijab in the USA. Munira Ahmed, a Muslim girl of Bangladeshi extraction, popularized hijab by wearing it in the colors of the American national flag. She became a poster child of the Islamists and the liberal left. 

Nazma Khan, a Muslim woman of New York, launched the first World Hijab Day on 1 Feb 2013. In the name of fostering “religious tolerance and understanding,” she invited all women to experience the hijab for just one day. One of the objectives of celebrating this day – enthusiastically promoted by the woke Left on university campus – is to safeguard the right of women to wear the hijab. 

Many observers and gender-equality advocates have characterized this as “creeping Sharia.” They ask a fair question: Will those behind World Hijab Day or Islamist activists like Linda Sarsour or a public figure like Congresswoman Ilhan Omar issue unequivocal statements in support of the right NOT to wear the hijab? Will they condemn the Khomeinis in Iran for their oppression of women who simply want to feel the wind of freedom in their hair and equality with men?

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Prasad Binoy
Prasad Binoy
Binoy Shanker Prasad holds a PhD from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Originally from Darbhanga, Bihar (India), Binoy lives with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). He is a former UGC teacher fellow at JNU in India and a Fulbright Scholar in the USA. Author of scholarly works including a book, Violence Against Minorities, Gandhi in the Age of Globalization (a monograph) and a collection of poems, Dr Prasad has taught International Politics and Political Sociology at Ryerson University, Centennial College and McMaster University. He has guest-lectured at such institutions as the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), George Mason Univ., Univ of Madison-Wisconsin, and Redeemer Univ. Socially active, Binoy has also been a two-term president of Hamilton based India-Canada Society (2006-08 and 2018-20).
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