I’m just going to copy/paste some thoughts regarding the discourse on the hijab, from a recent convo on Facebook. I mentioned earlier that I’m sick of the over-intellectualization and obsession with the headscarf, and I am certainly guilty of it myself. And while I try hard to distance myself from it, being the subject of this discourse – while simultaneously being denied the right to shape it – makes it hard to escape. An acquaintance on Facebook asked what was it that the hijab, ultimately, symbolized citing that it was important for those trying to understand religious doctrine and also those interested in the various ‘problems’ that exist with the hijab pertaining to coercion, control of female sexuality, collective vs. individual morality, etc.
My responses were as follows (and I did not include the other responses as I haven’t asked for permission):
The Qur’an does not deny any individual the ability to explore and engage with their sexuality and sexual agency, rather it sets out [legal/moral] parameters which are meant to ensure healthy state of individual mind (as related to the human body) and to society at large which is affected. Sexuality is a very integral part of Islam. Islam doesn’t deny basic human desires, rather is sets out limitations to their exploration for moral reasoning related, again, to the individual and the society.The hijab is just one manifestation of a strong Islamic ethic, which hearkens back to the idea of humility in the face of God. I won’t admonish a woman for choosing to wear a bikini, but I don’t think it falls under the ethic of humility. I also don’t think the bikini in particular is exactly the most representative of women’s sexual agency, to be quite honest..
Then again, that’s my opinion on women’s fashion in general – too much male presence.
I also think the question of the hijab’s representation has become irrelevant and over-intellectualized. It’s just [become] too dripped in perspectives of exoticization and I’m definitely sick of that.
When you wear the headscarf and are constantly engaged in that discourse, you realize how ultimately irrelevant and exoticizing it [is]. It’s something that is a part of me, it’s a manifestation of how I interact with something very private in my life – my faith – as well as reflective of political ideas – it’s something that is both a struggle and a blessing. So to be constantly bombarded with an intellectualized interrogation – very common – wears thin on the self.
I actually think that the over-intellectualization of the hijab is linked to 1. The general over-intellectualized nature of modern academia, where everything is free game for over-analysis. A friend of mine recently said it very well when he said – why does everything need to have a material reason? Why is the given reason never enough? And that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling. 2. Over focus on women’s sexuality. Why not talk about what the fist-long beard (as per sunnah) represents for the Muslim male? Where’s the discourse on the Muslim male wardrobe? I think the fact that that discourse is virtually non-existent – and when it does exist, is relegated to questionable assumptions and bigotry – speaks volumes about the hijab discourse.
This is something I’ll be exploring further. I’ll be writing another brief piece on revisiting the male gaze and will tie this discussion into that. As well as a later discussion, prompted by a colleague’s excellent articulation of shared observations, on the obsession with material answers for actions of religious folk (also informed by a reading I did last semester, by a professor who was formerly involved in the Sudanese Islamist movement). And to get why I use the term ‘bullshit’ – see Harry Frankfurt. I’m going to try to use his essay to critique.
BAH HEAD HURT LOT NOW.