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South Africa – In many countries, particularly across Europe, the Hijab has encountered significant scrutiny and become quite controversial. To this extent, in apparently progressive regions, it is legally prohibited to wear it.
Critics frequently point out in certain Middle Eastern countries, where policies and laws concerning women’s rights and attire are stringent, the Hijab is perceived as a tool for female subjugation.
Often, this argument holds weight, especially in instances where women face detainment for violating state regulations, sometimes resulting in tragic outcomes like the case of Mahsa Amini. Nevertheless, applying this argument universally to all women is inappropriate, considering the diverse freedoms of religious practices and other rights.
For the majority of Muslim women globally, the Hijab holds significance beyond what is perceived by Western countries and critics. It is not a tool for oppression but represents self-confidence and empowerment.
Diyaanah Smith, a South African woman who wears the Niqab, affirms the Hijab aligns with Islamic teachings, values, and principles, emphasising the importance of protecting one’s modesty and dignity. Most people from other faiths do not understand these laws apply to both men and women in distinct ways.
“Today, we’re so versatile, and everything is just out there, and we’re so proud to pronounce ourselves as being Muslim. Wearing our Hijab and wearing our Niqab, sometimes people just look at you and think, ‘Oh gosh, what is this woman thinking? Is she forced to do so?’ [No] in our case, we wear it with pride.”
Counteracting the Negative Perception of Hijab through Education
In South Africa, the fortunate coexistence of people from diverse backgrounds allows for the free and just practice of wearing religious attire. However, negative propaganda spread propagated by Western media and politicians has led some to view the Hijab in a damaging light.
This perception often stems from a lack of understanding, misinformation, and stereotypes, with Apartheid contributing to this cultural ignorance. To address this situation, Diyaanah emphasises the significance of World Hijab Day as a chance for Muslims, particularly women, to educate others and debunk misconceptions.
Therefore, this process should start with us engaging in conversations and being open to answering questions, beginning with those in our everyday circles.
“We should stand up, teach and show them our beliefs as women because we’re not deprived of the world. We have the world on our side and certain things on our side. So we should stand up to them and teach them that this is what is given to us in Islam, and you should wear it with pride.”