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From India to France, bigots are scared of the hijab. Why are Western feminists so deafeningly silent about this?

A little piece of cloth is scaring big governments again.

The latest instance is in India, where in early March the Supreme Court announced that it would set up a three-judge bench to hear a case challenging a hijab ban in educational institutions in the state of Karnataka. In October 2022, the top court had delivered a split verdict on the ban, which the Karnataka High Court had previously upheld.

As a result of the Indian hijab ban in educational institutions, thousands of girls have not been able to attend school for a year, and were denied even a temporary lifting of the ban for their practical exams this year.

And thanks to the same restrictions on religious dress in France, thousands of Muslim French women must choose between practicing their sincerely held spiritual beliefs or pursuing their love for the sport of football.

The French Football Federation bans hijab-wearing women and girls from its competitions. The French senate in January of last year voted 160 to 143 to extend that ban to all sports competitions, though that move was ultimately defeated in the country’s parliament. Meanwhile, France’s hijab ban at state-run academic institutions remains in place.

Why is it that the hijab is so often the obsession of bigots the world over? What is it about this piece of cloth that brings about so much passionate protest from detractors?  And why are Western feminists so deafeningly silent when it comes to this type of state control of women’s bodies?

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The great irony of course is that all these supposed “saviors” of Muslim women who want to liberate us from our religious dress because they claim it degrades and limits us, do just that by restricting or ridiculing our choices.

Indian and French girls must choose between their education and practicing their faith, and thousands of French athletes must make a similar agonizing decision between their careers and their creed.

According to representative survey research conducted by the Washington-based Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, roughly half of Muslim women in the United States wear hijabs. The most popular reason given for why those who wear it do so is “religious devotion”,

Should well-meaning self-proclaimed “feminists” shame and demean other women for making it a part of their lives?

If the answer is no, then perhaps this Women’s History Month, Western feminists should consider opposing hijab bans with as much ferocity as hijab mandates.

Edited by Zainab Y Hamza

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