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Ayman: Hijab is not a symbol of male domination, but activists have an agenda to potray it that way



By: Abu Ayman

In a series of articles, Daily Nation columnist Kaltum Guyo disparaged the Muslim dress hijab, claiming it is an obstacle to education for girls and a hindrance to the socioeconomic advancement of Muslim women.

She said it was a symbol of male domination over women and part of their systematic subjugation by Islam.

For starters, while the hijab is always seen through a Muslim lens, the dress is not exclusive to Islam. Catholic nuns have historically been recognised by their distinctive dress, the habit, which mostly has a little distinction from the hijab. In some orders, the nuns wear an enveloping dress akin to the jilbab, which Kaltum referred to as a “blanket”.

The Virgin Mary, who is also highly extolled in Islam, is often depicted wearing the hijab. Even in the Bible, Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, advised women to cover their heads as a sign of modesty. Head coverings are common in conservative communities like the Anabaptists and some Mennonite Christians.

In Judaism, Jewish sects like Lev Tahor and Amish require women to cover their bodies and the Haredi have the equivalent of the niqab face covering.

Here at home, the Akorino, a Christian sect, obligates its female adherents to cover their heads and wear long dresses.

While for other faiths it is a sign of devotion and modesty for a woman to cover their head and body, the hijab is subjected to criticism, disparagement, ridicule and even legislation to restrict its wearing as it is seen to demean the rights of women.

The hijab has never been a hindrance to Muslim women’s progress. Prophet Muhammad’s wife Khadija excelled as a businesswoman, and his other wife Aisha was one of the most remarkable teachers in Islamic history, Fatima al Fihri founded the oldest existing university, the University of Qarawiyyin, in Morocco.

In our contemporary world, Muslim women luminaries like Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan, US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and even converts to Islam like British journalist Yvonne Ridley and former British Premier Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth have adopted the hijab in their daily lives.

It is ludicrous to refer to the restriction of education for women in Afghanistan by the Taliban to validate the argument that Islam curtails the rights of women to education and social progress. Scholars across the Muslim world say that is not consistent with Islamic practices.

The same for Muslim-dominated northeastern Kenya, where the state of affairs was precipitated by decades of marginalisation and not hijab or Islam.

More than 1,400 years ago, when virtually all societies viewed women as chattels, Islam emancipated them by recognising their rights to life and dignity, property ownership, choice of marriage, right to inheritance and other inalienable rights which remain a mirage for many women in the current century.

In Islam, a woman is considered a precious gem and it is natural that exquisite objects are covered and protected from prying eyes, to preserve their beauty.

Abu Ayman Abusufian, Muslim Media Practitioners of Kenya, Nairobi.


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