by Salina Khan (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 2, Sha'ban, 1443)
From Kerbala to Karnataka, hijab-clad women have throughout history resisted attempts by the enemies of Islam to remove their head-covering. It is considered a barrier to complete domination over Muslims, their lands, and their system of life. In this War on Islam, the latest battlefield is the subcontinent of South Asia, where Muslim women are standing up against subversive attacks on modest-dress from Western-smitten feminists in Pakistan and outright bans by Hindu fascist regimes in India.
“If you can’t hold a gun in your hands, carry the hijab on your head,” Imam Khomeini, Leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran said, “because it’s the most powerful weapon a woman can use against the Yazeed (tyrant) of every era.”
In major cities across Pakistan, thousands of fully-covered Muslim women and girls took to the streets on International Women’s Day on March 8 in “Takreem-e Khawateen” (Honor and Respect for Women) rallies to counter-protest against the controversial annual Aurat March. The Aurat March is organized by feminists—many educated in the west and working with American and European non-governmental organizations (NGOs) since 2018—who have been pushing an unsavory western approach to achieving women’s rights.
While some of their demands are no doubt legitimate, like living wages and end to sexual violence, the feminists’ slogan of “my body, my choice” has shocked the country by calling for women in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to be able to wear whatever they want in public, have sex with whomever they want (male or female, married or unmarried) without legal or social repercussions or judgment, and abort the resulting baby if they want, in clear violation of Islamic injunctions.
While small groups of religious-oriented women have in the past rallied against Aurat Marchers, 2022 was the first year that large-scale counter protests were organized together by Shia and Sunni women, including Jamia Ummul Kitab, Tehreek-e Bedari-e Ummat-e Mustafa, Jamaat-e Islami Women and Jamia Sirajia Naeemia in such cities as Lahore, Islamabad, Sahiwal and Sialkot.
Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri called for a ban earlier this year on the Aurat March and suggested an International Hijab Day be declared in its place in solidarity with Muslim women in India and around the world facing challenges to wearing a hijab.
“We all accept that Islam offers a complete code of life and there is no alternative to it,” Qadri said. “No organisation should be allowed to question or ridicule Islamic values, norms of society, hijab or the modesty of Muslim women at the Aurat March or any other event held in connection with International Women’s Day as these acts hurt the sentiments of Muslims in the country.”
While the Aurat March organizers base their manifestos on western liberal feminist thought and traditions, women who joined the Takreem-e Khawateen rallies demanded respect, rights and freedoms for women within the parameters set by God and through the establishment of an Islamic government, promised when Pakistan was established in 1947. The said Pakistani women, men, and children are already suffering by living under the remnants of a British colonial system. Imposing western liberal values would make matters worse.
“Modern-day women, if you want to be saved (from the oppression of society) and achieve your rights then turn to Allama Iqbal who outlined in his poems how you can do that,” Tayyiba Naqvi, Principal of Jamia Ummul Kitab girls Islamic seminary in Lahore, urged at the rally. “He [Iqbal] said, become like Batoul (Fatima, daughter of the Prophet (pbuh)) and save yourself from the slogans and traps that the Satanic powers have set for you. If you become like Fatima, then God will put a Shabeer (Imam Hussain) in your lap [who will rise up to fight against the injustices of society and for the establishment of an Islamic system].
While Pakistani women are defending Islamic values and are faced with a soft war against hijab, their counterparts in India are fighting for their lives against genocidal Hindu fascist regimes bent on erasing all traces of Islam from public sphere, with the hijab being the latest target. Since the beginning of the year, government schools in a growing number of Indian states have suddenly banned girls who wear hijab from entering school/college buildings. To make matters worse, an Indian (Hindu-dominated) court in March declared that hijab is not a requirement of Islamic attire for Muslim women.
But a group of brave young hijab-clad school girls in the Indian state of Karnataka captured global attention when they held sit-ins outside their school building, refusing to take off their hijabs even after being hounded by throngs of taunting Hindu fascists on the streets. One of the girls, Muskan Khan, shouted “Allahu Akbar” in retaliation, and it has become a rallying cry around the globe in support of Muslim women facing challenges to their hijab.
Indeed, the enemies of Islam continue to come up with different ways to remove the hijab from Muslim women. Twelfth-century liberator of Jerusalem Salahuddin Ayyubi realized the importance of protecting the hijab when under siege. “If you want to destroy any nation without war, make adultery or nudity common in the young generation,” he said.
While the campaign against hijab has been conducted through government dictates in some places like India, Europe, or even in earlier Islamic history in Kerbala, where the soldiers of Yazid ripped off the hijabs of the wives and daughters of the family of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) after slaughtering Imam Hussain and others 1200 years ago, it is more by stealth in other countries. In Iran and America, for instance, social media influencers are “manipulating” girls to loosen their hijabs and show parts of their hair, neck, or ears as a first step to taking it off completely.
In Pakistan, where fourth generation feminist tactics like vulgar slogans were a failure and fueled widespread condemnation, even within Pakistani feminist circles, masterminds behind the movement are urging activists to change course to gain local support. The United States Institute of Peace assembled Pakistani scholars and women’s rights advocates in a new working group last year and came up with a strategy to “reconcile” feminism and Islam and “publicize feminist narratives about Islam.”
Indeed, Muslim women must be vigilant and taking inspiration from Takreem-e Khawateen rally and 19-year-old Muskan Khan, must protect not only their hijabs but also their religion and countries/communities from falling into enemy traps.
“Bibi Zaynab [grandaughter of the Prophet (pbuh) who survived and spread the message of Kerbala] has shown men and women the way of resistance,” Ustadh Syed Jawad Naqvi of Islamic seminary Jamia Urwa tul Wusqa said at the Takreem Rally in Lahore. “When Satanic forces take on the face of Yazid, when the distinction between mahrum and non-mahrum is abolished, when humanity is insulted, degraded, and humiliated and surrounded by dangers from all sides, then jumping into those dangers [to resist] is the way of the grandson of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).