Islamic Perspectives

The Economics of Hijab — i

By Dr Javed Jamil

Hijab is surely one of the major social issues in discussion these days particularly in the West. Is this issue merely an indicator of the growing feelings of hatred against Muslims after 9/11? Is it merely because the Hijab is believed by many to have become a symbol of Islamic revivalism and assertion of Muslim identity? If people tend to think that to be the case they are awfully mistaken. It can be true that the campaign against Hijab has gathered momentum after 9/11. But the truth is that Hijab is a constant thorn in the flesh of the corporate world. Recent events have only given it a fresh reason to press the campaign against modesty with a renewed vigour. But the real motive behind this campaign remains economic, not the religious or political.

With the beginning of Industrial Revolution and its capture at the ideological level by what I call economic fundamentalism, the feminist movements in the West and elsewhere spawned a socio-cultural milieu that encouraged women’s participation in all types of social activities. Feminism imbued their minds with a fallacious sense of euphoria over their newly found liberty and freedom. Freedom was too fantastic a slogan to resist and the prospects of riddance from the ennui of routine menagerie was a dream come true. Hardly did they realise that the freedom they were being made to achieve was but a mirage and the movement for women’s liberty was a calculated move initiated or supported by the cunning merchants. Having excelled in misusing fascination between men and women to further their business, it was now time to sexually abuse women for money.

The economic fundamentalists had pretty well recognised the big potential of sex as a product for market. The desire for items of luxury could be wanting in a number of human beings, but sex is a universal human urge and even the most pious tends to succumb to sexual advances of a member of the opposite sex. The commercialisation of sex therefore was expected to generate massive dividends, unparalleled in any other business.

Furthermore, sex could be used for boosting other markets as well. A number of stumbling blocks in the path of merchandising of sex had already been crushed or made defunct. The women were now willing to be active participants in any dispensation. Their longing for luxurious life was rapidly intensifying; they had smelled economic independence. Unfortunately however, women failed to exercise their wisdom in distinguishing between true freedom that would elevate their social and economic status without turning them into victims of savage exploitation and fake freedom that was advertently inculcated in them by the merchants in order to expand their financial empires. Little did women understand that their personal rights would be used as instruments for their abuse.

The first necessity for the commercialisation of sex was that women must get accustomed to revealing their anatomy before others. This could not be accomplished overnight. The first step in that direction was popularisation of ‘fashion’ which soon became a word most dear to men and women of all ages and groups. Fashion as an industry developed by leaps and bounds; and corresponding to its growth, the size and volume of clothes adored by women got shortened. Covering the heads had always been regarded both by men and women in almost all the faiths that flourished anywhere on the globe a sign of virtue. It indicated the decency of personality and righteousness of character.

Head-kerchief was the first casualty of the storm of fashion. This led to the display of dozens of attractive hairstyles. Then the arms and shoulders were bared and the neckline started descending. Skirts began to shrink, and miniskirts and shorts steadily marked their presence on the fashion scene. Swimming suits were then popularised through sports - women had the right to play - and films. Within a short period of time the topless blondes and brunettes could be seen on hundreds of beaches all over the world. The business through beaches reached great heights. The nude poses of women - even an ugly woman - could be made sexy by an expert photographer - started regularly appearing in some magazines and newspapers. The films excelled in showing them taking bath or changing clothes. The portrayal of sexual acts was soon to follow.

In this background, it can be easily understood that Purdah or Hijab (veil) was the most abominable sight for the economic fundamentalists donning the garb of feminism. It must be clarified here that purdah (covering of body) was not limited to the Islamic world, as is often believed. Almost all the races, communities and sects, except some tribes, insisted on covering most parts of the body. Women, especially belonging to the upper class, usually covered their heads and put an extra cloth on their bosoms. The difference in the case of Islam was that it had assumed the shape of burqa.

The campaign of the pseudo feminists was therefore directed against all such societies that prescribed some code of dressing. How a woman reluctant even to show her face and hair could be persuaded to bare her breasts, thighs and buttocks! The unholy war against the ‘veil’ in the countries, where it was still in practice, got intensified. It was condemned as the greatest obstacle in the development of women.

Acrimonious debates ensued in newspapers, magazines, social circles and public platforms. Army personnel and policemen could cover their bodies with thick uniform and head with heavy helmets, and yet the heat in the atmosphere and density of clothes would not interfere in their normal functioning; advocates and judges could don jet black robes, even at the height of summer, and yet the travails of weather would not impede their work; doctors could put thick white aprons without feeling uncomfortable; nurses and nuns’ head- kerchiefs would not hinder their movements; bishops could perform all their celebrated duties wearing extra robes and covering their heads; but women’s freedom of movements would be severely jeopardised, as the feminists believed, if they covered their body with some additional piece of cloth. If women wore a hat to cover their head, it was not unwelcome, as it normally did not indicate a desire on her part to practise some piety. Hijab on the other hand was not acceptable as it demonstrated a conscious conviction and effort on the part of the woman to lead a chaste life. Chasteness was and is not acceptable to the economic fundamentalists; chasteness does not bring money.

Nudity is an antidote to chasteness. Nudity needed glorification in order to be popularised; the shame attached to it was to be mercilessly ravished if society had to “develop”. The “Operation Nudity” began with the glorification of nude paintings and graffiti. The artists who marvelled in eroticism were admired as some of the greatest artists of all times for the reason that their compositions were portrayals of “reality” and “beauty”. Films also started presenting woman in her full naked glory in the name of art or reality.

The opponents were spurned as the enemies of truth and art. When money poured in as the result of depiction of truth, truth was eulogised; when it required falsehood, it was adored as a work of fiction or creative imagination. With the beginning of the globalisation, which meant that now Muslim countries too would be globalised, the forces of the corporate world have realised that the true picture of globalisation cannot emerge unless the Islamic practice of Hijab is challenged and abolished.

To be continued in next issue

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2010 on page no. 28

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