Hijab bans in all shapes and forms continue to be something we see happening in various parts of the world (including the U.S) and in a variety of ways – from stifling the ability of covered women to compete and play in various sports, to preventing them from attending school in India, to continued pushback against covered women in the public arena in France, to becoming a rallying cry of a national protest movement in Iran by women who are fighting against (among many larger issues) being forced to wear it.
The pushback against religious-based head covering bans or waiver requirements in athletics (and other areas of life) has belonged to the athletes and women (and men) fighting it on college campuses, in the wrestling ring, in the streets, on basketball courts, soccer pitches, volleyball courts and more across the country and globally. The message remains clear: You can’t ban us. And, you should not force us, either. We should be able to play, work, get an education (and so on) and respect our religion.
We’ve been following and reporting on these stories for years and continued to do so throughout 2022. The development of our Haute Hijab Sport
line, which included hours of interviews and discussions with Muslim women athletes and fitness lovers, helped us realize how important it was for us as a company to provide support from behind the scenes to these fierce, strong women fighting these fights to wear their hijabs and play sports or seek an education or whatever it is they want to do. And, it was also important for us to stand with those who are fighting for their freedom from being policed and forced into something that was not born of their own intention, choice and conviction.
With our ongoing #CantBanUs campaign
, we continue to work with athletes, athletic associations and organizations to educate about hijab and support women to push back against rules that require waivers for religious head coverings or outright bans them. We amplify voices and these issues through our blog and our social media, through partnerships with other associations working on religious freedom bills in different states, and we voice our opinions and share stories on other platforms.
As 2022 draws to a close, here are five ways we’ve worked to amplify the fight against hijab bans and forced hijab wearing.
Women in India protest against hijab bans in Karnataka. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
1. As the year began, the spotlight turned towards Muslim female students in India,
who had been fighting against a situation at their Indian college preparatory school in Udupi, Karnataka, where several Muslim students weren’t allowed to attend classes and were marked absent due to their wearing of hijab
. Hena Zuberi, director of Washington, D.C. operations for Justice for All, said in an interview with Haute HIjab
, “This is not a fight between equals. This is a state-sponsored oppression of a religious minority in a country with two genocide alerts. Indian state-sponsored media wants to blame the victims for creating ‘disharmony.’ We cannot share that narrative but must actively dismantle it,” We created a series of social media posts explaining the growing conflict in the Indian state of Karnataka
and published this article
on The Haute Take to amplify the issue.
Women in India protest the outcome of the Karnataka hijab ban case; image source: Wikimedia Commons.
2. In March of 2022, a month after we had initially reported about the hijab ban in Karnataka, India, a high court upheld the state government order
in Karnataka that banned hijabs in the classroom, stating that the hijab is not “essential” to Islam, setting a dangerous precedent across the India. This verdict comes against the backdrop of targeted violence against Muslims and continuous conflict in India, in which a situation arose in the past several months at an Indian college preparatory school in Udipi, Karnataka – several Muslim students weren’t allowed to attend classes and were marked absent due to their wearing of hijab
.In our reporting of the story
, we spoke again with Justice For All’s Hena Zuberi, who said, “Hijab is … categorically an Islamic practice. The world needs to wake up to the reality of what is happening in India.”
Latifah McBryde wrestles in competition.
3. In May, we heard about 17-year-old Latifah McBryde, who earned a spot on the U.S. national team at the 72 kg weight class by placing second in the U20 division at the competition in Texas. As the second-place winner, she was supposed to be representing the United States to compete in the Pan-American championships in July in Mexico. But after returning home to Buffalo, she and her father received a call from Cody Bickley, the U.S. national team’s high performance manager of coaches and education telling him that UWW would not grant Latifah a religious waiver to compete. And even if she traveled to Mexico to compete on her own dime, she would not be allowed. Thus, Latifah was banned from wrestling because of how she wants to dress in competition, which UWW deems to be a safety risk and also a possible advantage in competition.
We spoke with Latifah and her father about what happened
. The banning was exactly what her father Mustafa had feared when he began entering Latifah and her sisters in competition. “I’m really concerned that this may have a backlash against us in preventing us from participating in further United States wrestling events. If we go to [a U.S. national competition] next year and they know we’re not going to be able to go further [because of their full-coverage wrestling uniform and hijab], that may turn against us - that we’re taking the spot of another wrestler in the bracket [who can go on to compete internationally on behalf of the United States].”
Latifah said, “My father raised me to be a woman of substance who aims high, not a woman of figure. It gives me the opportunity to be judged purely on my intellect, skill and ability. When I step on the mat during practice, no one cares what God I worship or how I am dressed. They only care about whether or not I perform.”
A young woman paints a mural of Mahsa Amini in the UK. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.
4. Come September, the world’s eyes turned to Iran and the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini,
a young Iranian woman who died in police custody after being arrested for “improperly” wearing her hijab (some of her hair was showing) by the country’s infamous “morality police.” Several reports said she was beaten severely by members of the morality police during her arrest and transfer to the Vozara Detention Center. She fell into a coma at the center and died Sept. 16. Iranian authorities claim she died of a heart attack, but others in the country suggest her death resulted from alleged torture and violence, according to a United Nations report
, which calls for accountability and an investigation into Amini’s death. Our blog editor Dilshad wrote about this
for Religion News Service.
At Haute Hijab, we’ve passionately fought against and spoken against hijab bans in athletics and in other areas of life in the United States and around the world. Watching what was unfolding in Iran – seeing women ripping off their hijabs and being persecuted for it – also pained us. As we wrote and shared on Instagram, “Being forced to do something you didn’t choose for yourself will likely result in resentment, if not hatred for that very thing. A woman shouldn’t be forced to wear hijab just as a woman shouldn’t be forced into *not* wearing hijab. When a woman chooses to adorn herself in hijab, it should be for Allah (S) and only Allah (S).”
Women protest against hijab bans in France; image source: Pexel.
5. Throughout the year, through partnerships with The Muslim Vibe and The Islam Channel, we worked to amplify stories of hijab bans
and power dynamics around hijab bans for these media outlets. In this interview with The Islam Channel
, Dilshad spoke about how hijab is all to often used as a tool in politics: “If there are ever any political tensions or issues afoot in any country that hones in on Muslims, targeting the hijab is low-hanging fruit because it’s such a visible way to know one is Muslim. People take the hijab and use it to misrepresent a thousand different political things, when really, at its heart, it’s not anything scary or oppressive, but rather something private between a woman and Allah (S) and her visible declaration that ‘I am Muslim.’”
In an article we wrote for The Muslim Vibe
, we traced the numerous power struggles at play around the hijab, writing that “The power dynamics around hijab, niqab and burkini bans around the world play out against the fundamental questions of religious expression in the public square versus a government’s prerogative to police what women wear – whether that’s banning burkini or hijab or other forms of religious dress (in France, various parts of Europe and India and in Quebec, Canada) or insisting that women have to be fully covered (in Afghanistan or Iran during certain time periods).
“Which begs the question – what is up with the power dynamics around what women choose to wear and whether or not they wear it for the sake of religion? … The continued focus on banning the hijab and other forms of religious expression and headwear in the public square is part and parcel of a larger thrust of government and political entities to keep power in their hands. And if broader society does not feel for women who have been wrongly oppressed by this decision, then we need to take a hard look at ourselves. Because this is not just oppression of Muslim women, it is the canary in the coal mine that human rights are at risk.”
We remain committed to supporting women (and men) in their fight to end hijab bans, and we stand with those who are against being forced and punished if they do not. What more can we do to support you if you are facing a pushback or ban because of your hijab? Let us know in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.