Transport for London has pulled a children’s road safety campaign that featured a young Muslim girl wearing a hijab after a backlash by Muslim feminists who claimed it was “sexualising children.”
One of the images in the Children’s Traffic Club campaign showed a child called Razmi, who is around three or four years old, wearing the hijab as she played with her friend.
But it was quickly called out by “Muslim feminists” because the hijab is usually only worn after a girl hits puberty.
Gina Khan told the Times: “You are sexualising a four-year-old girl. It is as simple as that. The reason a female is covered is so men don’t look at her. How can you integrate in society if you have a four-year-old girl wearing a hijab?”
Aisha Ali-Khan added: “If you are a Muslim girl and look at these images and see this girl is Muslim and she is wearing a hijab and you aren’t, you will think there’s something wrong with you. It is far too young. You are a child. What are you being modest for?”
And Shaista Gohir, chair of Muslim Women’s Network UK, also accused the campaign of reinforcing tired stereotypes about what Muslim women and girls look like.
“It is frustrating to see that every time a Muslim girl or women needs to be represented, she has to be shown covering her head,’ she told Sky News. “Why reinforce stereotypes, especially when it comes to children? Most Muslim four-year-old girls do not wear the hijab – those who want to wear it usually do so at puberty with some only adopting it due to parental and peer pressure.”
From a religious perspective the hijab only becomes obligatory for Muslim females at the age of puberty, but many Muslim parents encourage their children to wear it before then so that they can get used to it.
The character Razmi appeared on the TfL website, and in a children’s book that was given out to nurseries in London. The £2million campaign was launched in 2015 by then-mayor Boris Johnson.
A TfL spokesperson said: “We apologise for any offence caused by this content and we will not use these designs in future. The Children’s Traffic Club was developed to help reduce casualties on London’s roads by educating pre-school children on basic road safety skills.”