Leave my hijab out of your unethical Western foreign policy!

A woman cuts her hair during a demonstration in front of the Iranian embassy in Brussels, Belgium on Sept. 23, 2022, following the death of Mahsa Amini. Editorial credit: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com

Saira Shareef reflects on how the Islamic obligation to wear hijab is being used as a tool to enact regime change in Iran.

“And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests and not expose their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers…” 

Quran. Surah Nur 24, Ayah 31

About 20 years ago I read this verse in the Quran and asked myself: if I believe that the Quran is from Allah, the Most Merciful, our Creator, and the Creator of the heavens and earth, then why wasn’t I covering my hair?

You see, although I grew up in a Muslim family, the hijab was never forced. My family’s attitude towards it was – it’s good if you wear it but it’s ok if you don’t, like many other Muslim families.

However, making the transition to the other state (i.e. wearing a hijab to not wearing it) would raise many eyebrows. The following questions would be asked: “What has happened to her?,” “Who is she listening to?”

As for the wider non-Muslim community, they wouldn’t understand at all. At the very best, I thought, they would keep the negative comments to themselves.

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I made many excuses to myself as to why I don’t have to wear the hijab, such as “we live in the UK” and “I dress modestly anyway.” But my inner thoughts kept biting away at me: if I believe that the Quran is the word of Allah, then I should be wearing it.


So I asked myself why didn’t I want to wear it. You see I wore it when I went to the mosque or when I prayed or read the Quran. And there was nothing oppressive about it. It didn’t hurt or caused me any discomfort; it’s like wearing a woolly hat in the winter. The reason why I didn’t wear it was the attitude of other people. They wouldn’t understand.

But ultimately what Allah thought of me mattered to me more than the thoughts of mankind. So one day I started wearing it and never looked back. It was difficult on the first day but now I love it. I would never take it off for anyone.

Why should I? Do others dress the way I want them to? Do they even ask my opinion? Why would I care how others dress? It’s their life. Likewise it’s my life, only I should choose how I want to dress.

Recently, in Iran, there was shocking news that a girl was killed by the “morality” police for not wearing the hijab properly. If that is the case then that is disgusting, and those who killed her should be severely punished.

Because of this incident at the moment women all over the world are showing support for those protesting against the mandatory hijab rule in Iran. They are claiming that they are supporting women’s rights but this is total nonsense.

Where is their support for women’s rights in India where Muslim girls who wear hijab are being denied the right to an education? Where are their voices of support for Uyghur women who are being forced to marry Chinese men against their will?

Where were their protests against Islamophobic American news channels which instigated the death of three Muslims in America in 2015?  Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were killed in Chapel Hill, as Yusor and Razan were wearing hijab and therefore easily identified as Muslims.

This support is not for women’s rights in Iran. This is about regime change.

Whatever you think of the Iranian government, you can’t possibly think that bombing them into democracy will free women in Iran. Rather, from history we can see that Western wars in Muslim countries lead to a complete destruction of women’s lives.

So this is my message to Western media and governments: leave my hijab out of your unethical Western foreign policy!

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