Reader ak, a Muslim woman from British Columbia, Canada in response to my article 13 Beautiful Arab Women disagreed with me that Muslim women are harassed for not wearing a hijab in Muslim countries, that some women just choose to wear it.
Now some of my readers may find it odd that a Muslim woman in Canada actually believes that no Muslim women are forced to wear a hijab when we know that a poor Muslim girl in Mississauga, Ontario was killed for not wearing one (1).
I found ak's comment so absurd I asked her what Muslim countries had she actually been to. Her answer: "jordan, syria, kuwait, dubai, palestine, qatar, bahrain, iraq, tunis, algeria, egypt, uman, morocca, yaman, Lebia." First of all, unless she is a UN worker, a journalist, or a doctor without borders, this is a typical Muslim lie.
But, for the sake of argument, let's take her at her word that she has been in these countries and has not seen any women being harassed for not wearing a hijab.
I am starting a new category series Muslim Sexual Harassment to investigate country by country her claim that women choose to wear the hijab in those countries.
She insists that Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are the only countries that enforce a dress code.
We shall see.
While ak may have visited the Jordan as a tourist, let's examine the first country on her list with the experiences of a woman who actually lived there:
Muslim Sexual Harassment in the Jordan
It is true that Jordanian police officers do not hassle uncovered women to veil up. However, women who do not cover up do experience more harassment from men. A non-Muslim women tells her story in a Jordanian magazine article:
jo.jo, The Fake Muhajaba
In the early spring of 2009, I began wearing the hijab when leaving my house in Amman.... I was trying to appear to be someone else. It started when I realized that the compromises I had originally expected to make when coming to Jordan—more conservative clothing, no alcohol on my breath, no smiling at strangers in public, and so on—were not enough to allow me to feel safe.
Sure, I’d known plenty of women who’d been coerced into wearing the hijab, and they all told me how unpleasant it was, but my situation was different, right? I’d be OK. Right?
Indeed, I felt the more aggressive episodes of harassment did become less frequent. But in my scarf I became even more miserable than before.
It was a small relief to find out that it wasn’t just me, when I spoke to foreign women who hadn’t had much success with wearing scarves either. One woman said she didn’t even see a difference in the level of sexual harassment. Another did, but said she felt there was something really wrong with having her inner person validated through dressing like someone else.
IT’S EASY TO BELIEVE that one is fundamentally “safe” in a hijab. It’s a pleasant fiction propagated by those clerics who compare uncovered women to “uncovered meat” or candy, and by people who romanticize Muslim dress.
As for my own hijab, I took it off.
A fake muhajaba is merely participating in a charade, no matter what appearances may tell you.
Natalia Antonova is editor of GlobalComment and ArabComment. When she is not working, she is blogging, writing creatively, and yelling rude things at football games on television.
More revealing than this woman's experience are the comments to the article:
The attitude towards women described above is not unique to Jordan; it is there all over our Arab world.
In Jordan, there are no catcalls of admiration running parallel to harassment (as in other countries); men here don't admire women, they treat them like walking pieces of meat. In Jordan, there is no one women can rely on to help them – not the law, nor their families in many cases. It’s a silent and destructive problem that’s growing worse because women are not empowered to speak up and combat it. Men continue to harass because they know they can get away with it.
It’s an epidemic not only in Jordan, but also in Egypt and other areas in the region.
I agree with you, this is a big problem here. My GF was going to the market a couple of month ago. She was in normal clothes no Hijab; a Group of guys were making silly comment. She replied with a cursing. They got pissed and started to follow her with their car. And At one point threw cans of Pepsi at her. When she went to the police station and gave them the car serial. They caught the guys but no procedure was made against them. They left a few hours. They are back to the streets to their filthy habit.
Im jordanian and non-muslim i have witnessed such sick and frustrating behaviour n our society..This wont make me wear hijab but men of all ages every where r harrassing women and girls..this should be stopped and the government NEED to take serious actions against this unhealthy & uncivilized acts..
The Jordan is one of the most modernized of Muslim countries. Although the status of women has improved over the years, there is still no law prohibiting violence against women (2).
The supposed purpose of the hijab is to force men to not sexually objectify women but to see them as vessels of intelligence and high moral values. The effect has been quite opposite. Because men are not allowed to have sex with women not their wives, there are millions of sexually frustrated, unmarried young men in a country with only 7,500 flocks of sheep concentrated in a few, well-guarded areas, far from urban habitats, and so sexual release for these men is difficult.
With so many young men unable to legally vent their lusts and desires, Jordanian women have been the brunt of their overly aggressive advances.
But don't we have sexually frustrated men in America? Yes we do, they are called observant Muslims.
So yes, women can legally, although not always safely, walk around unveiled in Jordanian cities. But that is not because the Jordan is a Muslim country, but because the Jordan is one of the most westernized of Muslim countries. Until it becomes completely westernized, uncovered women will continue to be harassed.
Salon, Girl murdered over hijab?
At first, 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez of Mississauga, Ontario, would wear a hijab when she left home each morning, only to take it off by the time she arrived at school. But, eventually, the 11th grader began clashing with her family over their demand that she always wear a head scarf and in late September she ran away from home. On Monday morning, Parvez returned to her parents' house to pick up her things. Soon after, the police received a call from her father, Muhammad Parvez, announcing that he had killed her.
Social Institutions and Gender Index, Gender equality and social institutions in Jordan
Violence against women – particularly domestic violence – is common. Women have only limited legal protection through broader provisions on battery and assault within the Penal Code. Social awareness of domestic violence has increased, but there is no specific legislation that criminalises such violence and incidents are rarely reported. So-called honour killings do occur in Jordan. Critics argue that provisions in the Penal Code justify (at least to some extent) these crimes by allowing for lower penalties when a crime is committed in rage following an unlawful act by the victim.
Women in Jordan are not well protected in terms of their physical integrity. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is not a general practice, but the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Network reports that it is known to occur in southern Jordan.
The sex ratio in Jordan is slightly higher than normal in favour of men, suggesting that Jordan may be a country of concern in relation to missing women.