Women at Point Zero

From women who go topless to the streets of Berlin, demanding the right to be able to appear topless in the public space like men,[1] to the decision of the German women’s Olympic gymnastics team to wear full-length unitards instead of traditional leotards, to the Muslim women hashtaging “HandsOffMyHijab”[2], I see nothing but the loud cry of women to the world, to give them back the possession of their body, and their freedom of choice to cover or uncover it the way they want; their demand to be the “owners of their own bodies”. Their fight against any double standards, of any kind, in rules and regulations, that treat female body differently than the male body. In this global call, Muslim women are also included. They too want to get all their civil rights and the possession over their bodies, even those who wear “headscarf”. YES, even those!

To think that because they wear something which from the European perspective is “a symbol for oppression and patriarchy” therefore a Muslim woman can, by no means, be a “feminist” – what I keep hearing ever since I am here – is very simplistic, if not paternalistic. I know of many Muslim women, who are perfectly well aware of the fact that veiling might have little to do with religious piety and the divine decree but rather with patriarchal intents to restrict the scope of the freedom of women in the society, and a product of male perspective regarding woman’s body as the “object of sexual attraction and provocation” etc., but still follow that, since for them it is part of their identity and lifestyle as a “Muslim woman”. Their choice! 

I also know of many pious Muslim women for whom their headscarf is neither a symbol for an ideology nor a medium to propagate any belief or idea. For them, to cover their head is part of their tradition, and their piety, and thus identity. To force them to follow our narratives of their headscarves, to force them to choose between their choice of dressing and the possibility to work, to try to “enlighten” them by force is itself following an ideology. A rather very dangerous one![3]

It is clear what I am addressing here: the European Court of Justice decided recently that headscarf can be banned at work.[4] Isn’t it really clear, that even if under “certain conditions”, this ban gives carte blanche to the (male) employers to discriminate a certain group of women? And even if it is issued out of Islamophobic intentions, isn’t it clear that again it is the Muslim woman, who is paying for that? For as a result of this ban, a Muslim man, no matter how conservative, if not radical and fundamentalist, he is, can attain these jobs, and a Muslim woman not, even if she is a pacifist. Simply because she is allegedly wearing a “sign”, a “symbol”, for her belief. Again, a woman should pay!

In a society where the law makers seek to level the hierarchical structures, in a society where the attempt is to more and more democratize rules and regulation, by issuing decrees that give more rights to the marginalized and the under-privileged, by taking them from the privileged – and in the case of women, by applying positive discrimination – isn’t it contradictory to see that, in the very same society, a certain group of women that belong to the marginalized, are deprived of certain rights?

Based on studies, and not mere speculation, we are now well aware of the fact that in the dominantly “white” societies, a kind of hierarchy of rights exists. Based on color and ethnicity, on top of the pyramid stands the white middle-class man, then the white middle class woman, then the non-white man, and down at the bottom the non-white woman. For the “Muslim woman”, with the immigration background, it is even worse. She is not only from another color and ethnicity, but also another nationality and religion. And not just that: she belongs to the religion which has, in the Western setting, been rendered to the “enemy image”. Taking all these into consideration, the Muslim woman falls deep down in this pyramid of “privileges”. Is it then okay for a court of justice to issue a ban, without having an eye on the consequences of it for the marginalized of the marginalized, for the lowest of the lowest level of the social hierarchy? 

From the case of the “white women”, challenging the double-standards in regard to dress codes – at the price of getting fined –, to the case of the “Muslim dark-skinned women”, asking for their right to study and work, while having the right to cover their body the way they want, there is only “one call” to be heard: questioning the “male gaze” and demanding the possession of one’s own body. It is, therefore, high time to heed their call.
In a (still) paralyzing patriarchal setting, all they want is: to rise up, to leap… to soar up. Let us help them in their flight! Don’t cut off their wings!

Drawing by Maryam ul-Sadat Siahpoosh



[3]I have never seen this ideology be presented as transparent as at this talk show on France 24, where a “French white woman” mansplains a “dark-skinned Muslim woman” as how with her headscarf she is being manipulated by the male Muslim fundamentalists, to spread their ideologies, and teaches her what veiling “actually” means, and what a “good Muslim woman” must look like:



Dr. Saida Mirsadri ist Mitarbeiterin am Seminar für Islamische Theologie der Universität Paderborn.

#Handsoffmyhijab #Womens_Emancipation #StopDoubleStandards